Lights, cameras and punters at Mohegan Sun


UNCASVILLE – Once the pomp and circumstance of a morning celebration to start legalized gambling in Connecticut wears off – no more TV cameras, no more lawmakers mingling and shaking hands, no more ribbon cuts – the gambling hall near the temporary sportsbook at Mohegan Sun Casino provided the usual sights and sounds.

Lights flashed and bells rang from nearby slot machines. Music played in the distance. Governor Ned Lamont had left the building to head to Foxwoods Resorts Casino for another photo op and ceremonial first bet, leaving the area open to exploration for everyone from the casual passerby to the professional handicapper.

Joseph Rizzuto, 44, is the latter. Wearing sunglasses with heart-shaped lenses on his head and a black hoodie with camouflage arms, he rushed to the Paris terminals at 11 am, shouting “Is this legitimate?” ? “

Eyes wide, he continued, “It is!” He applauds emphatically. He took one knee and pumped his fists, pulled his arms like he was starting a lawn mower, spun them like he was playing guitar. He celebrated as if he had just reached a life-changing seven-team bet for money and had yet to consider a points spread.

” Delighted ! ” He shouted. ” Delighted ! “

Legalized sports betting was introduced the same way most things involving big business and politics are usually introduced. Aloud, with guests, repeated speeches. Yet once the bookie was active, simply there as an option in the southeastern corner of the state, those who wanted to incorporate favorites and underdogs into their gaming experience were exposed, regardless of the role they played. play in their life.

No need to call bookmakers anymore. No need to cross state borders anymore. No more offshore accounts. None of this is necessary, anyway, as Connecticut has become the last state to offer and regulate sports betting, opening the floodgates to new sources of revenue as the state and two of its partners important – the tribes and their casino properties – seek to compensate financially. ground lost during the pandemic.

“It’s been a long time coming, probably 10 years ago,” Lamont said. “Not everyone was betting we were going to cross the finish line, but I was and you were. We did it. It is long overdue.

Weekday mornings aren’t traditionally busy times for casinos and Thursday was no different, despite the new attraction. While the passage of time and special events will surely attract large crowds, the first few hours of operation were rather fruitless, as far as the casinos are concerned.

People walked around, slowing down a lot to look at the new scene as one would slow down to look at the animal in the next exhibit at the zoo. Others stared mesmerized at gigantic tables displaying matches and odds above the four betting windows. And a few got to work, spending a considerable amount of time scrolling through the options at one of the 50 or so betting kiosks before walking away while putting the betting slips in their wallets.

“I took the day off to be here and take a look,” said a man, a Connecticut resident probably in his 40s, who declined to give his name. “When I go to Vegas on vacation one of the things I look forward to is sitting down and watching a game and not having a lot of money, but enough money to make it interesting. . Once this started for a while, I can say that I was one of the first people in Connecticut to place bets legally.

This man made 13 bets, totaling about $ 200. Two other men refused to be questioned when leaving the betting area, and another jokingly called himself “degenerate.” [bleep]As he spoke to Mohegan employees. The man was especially interested in when the odds sheets would be available. He was told they were printed.

“Attractive!” he said. “So come back, where?” About an hour, right? Yes!”

He applauded. And applauds and applauds.

Rizzuto was also interested in the betting sheets. In a week or two, bettors will have an online betting option, with Mohegan partnering with FanDuel and Foxwoods partnering with DraftKings. In-app play from afar is likely to be appealing to a large faction of state gamblers.

It is not Rizzuto and players of a certain ilk, accustomed to the crumpling of paper, the cashing of tickets, the crunching of numbers on the spot, the emotional and financial ebb and flow that it is about. bet, on the spot, as if at work.

“Look, man,” Rizzuto said. “I am ecstatic.”

Rizzuto grew up in Rocky Hill and moved to Las Vegas in 1999 at the age of 21 – with $ 4,000 in cash and a suitcase full of possessions – to pursue his dream of becoming a handicapper. He has stayed there over the years and returned to Connecticut a few weeks ago.

“It’s all I do,” Rizzuto said. “I am a handicapper. This is the only reason I’m back here, because I can now live with my family and do what I did in Vegas which is legally move money by betting on sports and knowing that I will get paid when I win.

“The best part is we can buy the ticket. I have a 70 year old dad and we have a lot of friends who play. I don’t want to download apps and go through technology. I want to come in, put in a few miles, whatever I bet, and I want to see the ticket. I’ll leave with it and when I win I’ll come back and cash it. I don’t want to worry about things getting lost on the computer, internet, apple or… damn it where you can’t get a line and it hangs for an hour.

Connecticut will benefit from this venture. The state will tax sports betting at 13.75%, and online casino games even higher, and is guaranteed hundreds of millions of dollars over the next 10 years through deals with the Tribes and Connecticut Lottery, the third operational branch of the equation.

“We got this after some negotiations in May and here we are four months later making the first bet,” Lamont told a crowd of about 150 people. “I think it’s faster than any other state in the country, and that’s what we love to do. We love to sit down with friends, have constructive negotiations, sign a deal, go ahead and do it. We do it for the people of Connecticut.

Lamont spoke for about two minutes before placing a $ 50 bet on the Connecticut Sun of Mohegan, a 7.5-point favorite over the Chicago Sky in a WNBA playoff game later Thursday.

Former NFL players Darius Butler and Wayne Chrebet, each affiliated with FanDuel, were on hand. Butler, who played at UConn before a nine-year NFL career with the Patriots, Panthers and Colts, bet on the Patriots to beat the Bucs when Tom Brady returns to Foxborough on Sunday.

“I’m confident, slightly“Said Butler.” I’m betting against Tom Brady. I’m never sure I’m betting against Tom Brady.

The entire scene at this point – a crowded scrum with lots of movement and few masks – felt like something out of the sidewalk from a first movie, quite glamorous. Sun President Jen Rizzotti was in attendance. A stage has been set up for the television crews and their cameras. There was the ribbon cutting, then Lamont’s bet.

“Money in the bank,” he said, holding his note and turning to the crowd.

Soon everything is gone. Back to the normal scene and normal casino folks, who now have endless options on the sports betting front – point spreads, cash lines, futures, team over / unders, individual over / unders, props , parlays, teasers, you name it.

Construction of Mohegan’s permanent bookmaker is expected to be completed by the end of January. It will be an 11,000 square foot facility to house an operation that will create 100 jobs and many more in the support areas. There will be a 140-foot video wall, lounges, VIP areas, a bar, a restaurant, the works.

It is attractive.

For some people.

Others just need a window, a bet ticket, and nothing else.

Rizzuto, still waiting for a score sheet, called his father, Anthony.

“Dad, this is legitimate,” he said enthusiastically, circling around and describing the sports betting scene. “This is the real deal. Did you go to the bank?

[email protected]; @ManthonyHearst


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