Monday, February 11, 2019 by Matt Pilon
Since the election, Gov. Ned Lamont has toured a half-dozen state agencies and counting.
The point is to shake hands with employees and management alike, conveying that the administration cares about their work, including any additional duties that would come from proposed legislation.
“What do governors do if they don’t go around and find out what people are up to and see what they need?” Lamont asked during a Jan. 29 walk-through of the Department of Consumer Protection, where he was accompanied by Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz. “Isn’t that your job?”
DCP wasn’t a flashpoint in the campaign, unlike agencies overseeing motor vehicles, economic development and the potential rollout of highway tolls.
Nonetheless, there’s plenty of significant legislation under discussion at the state Capitol that would ultimately involve DCP, which employs 219 people and has a $13.8 million budget.
During their recent tour, accompanied by an HBJ reporter, Lamont and Bysiewicz quizzed DCP officials about the possible legalization of sportsbetting and marijuana — two policies the governor supports, and which, if approved by lawmakers, would almost certainly mean an expansion of DCP’s oversight roles.
Asked about sportsbetting, William Ryan, DCP’s gaming division director, replied: “We’re ready.”
The agency already regulates off-track betting, which includes brick-and-mortar wagering as well as bets placed online.
New Jersey rolled out online sportsbetting last year, and uses a geofencing technology to block out-of-state bettors from logging in through their cell phones.
“People are telling me if you drive across the bridge, as soon as you hit the New Jersey line, you can pull out your phone and start placing bets on your phone,” Bysiewicz told Lamont. “Think about all that revenue.”
Estimates say it could generate tens of millions of dollars in tax revenues annually, but to get it, Lamont will have to hash out a deal with Connecticut’s two casino-owning tribes, which argue they would have the exclusive rights to sportsbetting under their state-revenue compacts.
On another floor at DCP, drug control division director Rod Marriott’s duties include overseeing the state’s medical-marijuana industry.
He said it would be up to lawmakers to decide exactly what role DCP would play if Connecticut legalized recreational pot.
Meantime, Lamont has pledged to digitize state government to make it more efficient, and during the tour, he was on the hunt for evidence of outdated methods. While DCP has moved more of its licensing and registration online, paper files were on display.
Lamont recently nominated former IBM exec and entrepreneur Josh Geballe to spearhead agency digitization efforts as commissioner of the Department of Administrative Services.
“So he’s going to be getting rid of these file cabinets,” Lamont said.