Conn. Tribes Hope To Win Big With Online Poker The governor is negotiating a deal that could put tribes in charge of the state's new online gaming enterprise. Casino operators and state officials are closely watching to see what kind of impact online poker will have on their revenue.
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Conn. Tribes Hope To Win Big With Online Poker

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Conn. Tribes Hope To Win Big With Online Poker

Conn. Tribes Hope To Win Big With Online Poker

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And how lotteries take shape online is something that casino operators are going to be following very closely to see what impact this will all have on their industry. The state of Connecticut has two casinos that generate millions of dollars a year. And Lucy Nalpathanchil from member station WNPR has more on the reaction there.

LUCY NALPATHANCHIL, BYLINE: It's a weekday but plenty of people are sitting at slot machines or playing table games at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Connecticut. Mohegan tribe chairman Bruce "Two Dogs" Bozsum looks with pride at the main gaming floor. He's sitting a level above the action, inside a trendy bar called Womby Rock.

BRUCE BOZSUM: We're packed all the time. Thirty to thirty-five thousand people come through here a day.

NALPATHANCHIL: The entire casino resort covers 185 acres. It has an upscale 1,200 room hotel that reaches 34 stories, nightclubs, celebrity chef restaurants by Bobby Flay and Todd English, and an arena that hosts big name entertainers from Neil Diamond to Toby Keith. Bozsum says all of those attractions help keep casino patrons at Mohegan Sun.

BOZSUM: It's a different market now. People come in, they gamble for a little while. If they win, they leave immediately. In older times people would spend more time a table, more time at a slot machine.

NALPATHANCHIL: At the height of the recession, revenue dipped more than 20 percent. Now it's slowly climbing again. Under an agreement with Connecticut, both casinos give 25 percent of their slot revenue to the state. When the U.S. Department of Justice cleared the way for states to operate online poker and lotteries, Bozsum says he immediately made a call to Governor Dannel Malloy. Since then, Malloy has spoken out in favor of Internet gambling.

GOVERNOR DANNEL MALLOY: We're talking about the employment of tens of thousands of individuals.

NALPATHANCHIL: Malloy is negotiating a deal that might put the tribes in charge of Connecticut's new online gaming enterprise. Malloy says he's no fan of gambling but he feels the state will lose big if it doesn't explore this potential new revenue stream. This is more important now as other states, including Massachusetts, enter the gaming market.

MALLOY: They've announced they're going to have five casinos. New Jersey governor has announced that he wants New Jersey to be the online gaming capital of the world, tied to the presence of the casino industry, which is competitive with our industry in the state of Connecticut. We've got to watch those things.

NALPATHANCHIL: Whether Connecticut residents are watching depends on whether they're regular casino patrons.


NALPATHANCHIL: Buses heading for the casinos pick up several times a day at parking lots across the state. Some people waiting to board say they just play slots and have no interest in online poker. But Marquis Jackson says he's interested.

MARQUIS JACKSON: I'm intrigued by it but nothing like doing the real thing. It's nothing like the real thing. Being on the computer is all right but at the end of the day, everybody go to the casino. I like to breathe the air, you know, sip the drinks, watch the people.

NALPATHANCHIL: Mohegan Tribe Chairman Bruce "Two Dogs" Bozsum says there are a lot of people like Jackson who love the casino atmosphere.

BOZSUM: They may play at home too on their downtime, they may play at work - who knows? There's no way to tell who's going to play. But it will introduce a lot of new players to the game of poker.

NALPATHANCHIL: And to Mohegan Sun, new players may mean new customers who want more excitement than playing online poker at home. For NPR News, I'm Lucy Nalpathanchil in Hartford.

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