Upcoming Gaming Expansion in Connecticut May Fund PACT

Gaming expansion in Connecticut may help fund the state’s program that allows students to attend community college without incurring debt, a press conference with a group of state legislators Monday morning revealed.

Gaming Expansion on the Cards

Last month, following a statement of support from Gov. Ned Lamont, lawmakers in the state put forth SB146, “An Act Authorizing Sports Wagering, Internet Gaming, Internet Lottery And Internet Keno”, to legalize sports betting and online gaming in the state.

Supported by 17 legislators, the gaming bill which was referred to the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Security and was voted for drafting January 21, 2021, could fund the Pledge to Advance Connecticut (PACT), lawmakers suggested during the press conference.

PACT was funded through the spring semester after a vote in December by the Board of Regents for Higher Education allocated $3 million in reserves to the state’s program supporting community college students. By that time the board warned that this was only a temporary solution and without finding a permanent source of funding, the program’s future was in jeopardy.

SB146 Sponsor State Sen. Catherine Osten proposed during the press conference that the state should allocate funds which remained from the partnership with Dalio Education, a program supporting students and educators in Connecticut, $13 million, to fund PACT for 4 more semesters, and buy the state enough time until the iLottery program start delivering a permanent stream of funding.

The passage of the gaming bill might not be that straightforward, though, as the two tribes in the state, the Mashantucket Pequots and the Mohegan, insist on keeping their exclusivity with regards to sports betting and currently block any efforts to legalize the lucrative business.

Despite the impasse, recent reports from the tribes suggested they were considering all options, meaning that a possible breakthrough may be on the horizon. Besides, Sportech, one of the major players for the upcoming market, announced in its pre-close 2020 market update the company would pursuit sports betting opportunities via Sportech Venues, also implying arguing sides may be reaching an agreement.

Well-Educated Workforce of Paramount Importance

PACT was established in 2019 to address the gap between federal and state grants and the cost of community college, allowing students who enrolled to the program to attend full-time college in the state with no tuition fees, as well as employers in eastern Connecticut to find more qualified employees locally.

State Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff highlighted that people in Connecticut are the only natural resources as the regions lacks any fields of natural gas or oil and relies entirely on its “workforce to propel” the economy, and the role of PACT is to ensure the presence of a well-educated workforce capable of meeting the demands for jobs.

Out of the more than 3,000 students who have enrolled in the program, more than half had their tuition fees covered by federal aid already.

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