Amid a raring countdown to the Belmont Stakes Saturday, when California Chrome could be the first Triple Crown winner since 1978, Connecticut's only entity licensed to accept online wagers is drawing attention to legal warnings the attorney general sent last month to its would-be competitors.
Sportech Venues operates 15 off-track-betting and sports bars around the state and owns http://www.MyWinners.com. It is the only website legally allowed by the state to offer pari-mutuel online wagers, which is a group of people pooling their wagers. In return, Connecticut gets 3.5 percent in taxes on those wagers.
To drive home the point, Sportech Venues issued a release Friday ahead of the Belmont Stakes saying that the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection and Attorney General George Jepsen recently sent cease-and-desist letters to out-of-state online outlets that aren't licensed to take wagers in Connecticut or to take wagers from Connecticut residents.
"No other site is regulated here or pays the tax that the state should be receiving," Ted Taylor, president of Sportech Venues, said in a statement. "Our operations are closely monitored by the Department of Consumer Protection, thereby ensuring that the highest standards of player protection are in place for local residents."
On May 20, Jepsen and Consumer Protection Commissioner William M. Rubenstein signed a form letter sent to 28 online gambling companies demanding they stop marketing their service in Connecticut and accepting wagers from state residents.
Rubenstein said it was coincidental that the letter was sent only three days after the Preakness, when California Chrome won the second of two major horse-racing events in America this year and set up the possibility of a Triple Crown win at the Belmont Stakes in Elmont, N.Y. The Kentucky Derby is the first race in the series.
"It's an issue that has come onto our radar screen," Rubenstein said. "About a year or so ago, we approved our licensee to do Internet. And then we started thinking, 'Well, what is going on with the Internet?' And it took us a little bit to make sure we were correct in our analysis and who all the players were."
Officials say some companies were marketing to customers in Connecticut and some were accepting wagers from Connecticut residents.
The state sent the same cease-and-desist letter to all the unlicensed gambling entities at once. It's a collection of companies from Kentucky, North Dakota, Florida, Ohio and elsewhere. The letters warn, "you must immediately cease and desist from accepting wagers placed from within the State of Connecticut …"
Rubenstein said some companies responded that they wouldn't accept any wagers. Others had questions about Connecticut laws, and some said they are evaluating the order and they will respond soon.
Meanwhile, the head of Sportech Venues is happy to oblige anyone who wants to place a bet on the brown-and-white colt with the Horatio Alger winning streak.
However, lots of horses have won both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness only to fall short at, or withdraw from, the Belmont Stakes. Six times in eight years from 1997 to 2004, horses won the first two races and not the third. The same happened in 2008 and 2012.
In the past three years, the Belmont Stakes has generated between $2.4 million and $2.6 million in wagers at Connecticut off-track betting parlors, according to Sportech Venues.
"2013 is the only year that includes online, as we just launched the MyWinners.com online wagering the day before Belmont Stakes last year," said Sportech Venues Director of Marketing, Paul Dionne. "The figures for online wagering were minimal at $8K wagered on Belmont Stakes day."Copyright © 2015, CT Now