Attorney General: John B. Meskill, Division of Special Revenue, 1996-009 Formal Opinion, Attorney General of Connecticut

Attorney General's Opinion

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal

July 15, 1996

John B. Meskill
Executive Director
Division of Special Revenue
555 Russell Road
Newington, CT 06111

Dear Mr. Meskill:

In your letter of April 24, 1996, you seek our opinion as to whether the Connecticut General Statutes require that a local referendum be conducted whenever a new off-track betting facility is proposed to be operated by the Autotote Corporation in a municipality. We conclude that the statutes do not require a local referendum. However, prior to the establishment of such a facility, the approval of the governing local legislative body of the concerned municipality must be secured.

Until July 1, 1993, the State, acting by and through the Division of Special Revenue, operated the off-track betting (OTB) enterprise. Effective on said date, and pursuant to the authority of P.A. 93-332, the system was sold to Autotote Corporation (Autotote) who thereupon undertook the operation of the existing system.

In consequence of the change in method of operation of OTB (i.e., the Division became the regulator and ceased also being the operator of OTB), P.A. 93-332 effected many changes in the law to reflect this transition. For example, Conn. Gen. Stat 12-574 was amended to provide that the operator of the OTB system (along with racing and jai alai operators) must apply for and secure an association license from the Gaming Policy Board. Obviously, when the State itself operated the system such a license was not required.

Central to consideration of the question posed are the following changes rendered by virtue of P.A. 93-332 (this Act became effective June 25, 1993):

Sec. 30. Conn. Gen. Stat. 12-571a of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof:

The location of each such facility shall be [determined] approved by the executive director with the consent of the gaming policy board and shall be subject to the prior approval of the legislative body of the town in which such facility is proposed to be located.

Sec. 31. Conn. Gen. Stat. 12-572 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof:.

The executive director, with the advice and consent of the board may establish or authorize the establishment of such off-track betting facilities throughout the state for the purpose of receiving moneys wagered on the results of races as he shall deem will serve the convenience of the public and provide maximum economy and efficiency of operation, provided the establishment of such a facility in any municipality for the purpose of receiving moneys on the results of races shall be subject to the approval of the legislative body of such municipality which shall be given only after a public hearing on the same.

Sec. 33. Conn. Gen. Stat. 12-574 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof.

No person or business organization may conduct a meeting at which racing or the exhibition of jai alai is permitted for any stake, purse or reward or operate the off-track betting system unless such person or business organization is licensed as an association licensee by the board.

Sec. 34. Conn. Gen. Stat 12-574a of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof:

Whenever a person or business organization files an application with the board for a license to conduct an activity regulated by section 12-574, as amended by section 33 of this act, the board shall forward within five days to the town clerk of the town within which such activity is proposed to be carried on a statement specifying the prospective applicant, the proposed activity, the site on which such activity is proposed to be conducted and the fact that an application has been filed with the board.... The question of the approval of the conducting of such activity shall be submitted to the electors of such town at a special election called for the purpose .... The provisions of this subsection shall not apply to any licensee authorized to operate the off-track betting system with respect to any off-track betting facility approved prior to the effective date of this section.

It is clear that Conn. Gen. Stat. 12-571a and 12-572, as amended by 30 and 31 respectively (above quoted) provide that, assuming the Executive Director has approved the proposed location, "local legislative approval" alone is required before an OTB operation may commence operations in a municipality. Conversely, Conn. Gen. Stat. 12-574a, as amended by 34, requires that "[t]he question of the approval of the conducting of such activity shall be submitted to the electors of such town at a special election called for the purpose. . . . "

You inquire whether these provisions are in conflict with each other and, if so, which prevails. In our opinion. these sections do not present the irreconcilable conflict" which would compel the application of the stringent and harsh axiom of repeal by implication. Blue Sky Bar, Inc. v. Stratford, 4 Conn. App. 261, 264, 493 A.2d 908 (1985). This principle is not favored and is reserved for use only in those circumstances where no other conclusion is possible. Ibid. "It is an accepted principle of statutory construction that, if possible, the component parts of a statute should be construed harmoniously in order to render an overall reasonable interpretation." Galvin v. Freedom of Information Commission, 201 Conn. 448, 456, 518 A.2d 64 (1986). See also, Powers v. Ulichny, 185 Conn. 145, 149, 440 A.2d 885 (1981).

It is clear that the referendum requirement of 12-574a is triggered "[w]henever a person or business organization files an application with the board for a license to conduct an activity regulated by section 12-574 . . . ." In the instant circumstances, pursuant to the authority of P.A. 93-332, Autotote was granted a license by the Gaming Policv Board on June 29, 1993. At the time of the issuance of this license, there was never any question raised as to whether a referendum need be conducted pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. 12-574a evidently relying upon the new portion of Conn. Gen. Stat. 12-574a(a) as amended by 34 of P.A. 93-332 (above quoted). This statute instructed the Board that the license application of Autotote would not trigger the referendum process since "the provisions of [Conn. Gen. Stat. 12-574a] shall not apply to any licensee authorized to operate the off-track betting system...... Hence, the Gaming Policy Board has, impliedly at least, interpreted the quoted portion of this statute as exempting Autotote from the requirements of the referendum process. The interpretation placed upon a statutory provision by the administrative agency authorized to administer such statute, while not conclusive, is entitled to great deference. Connecticut Alcohol & Drug Abuse Commission v. Freedom of Information Commission, 233 Conn. 28, 39, 657 A.2d 30 (1995); Griffin Hospital v. Commission on Hospitals and Health Care, 200 Conn. 489, 496, 512 A.2d 199 (1986).

Moreover, this request for opinion is prompted because "Autotote is currently in the process of selecting sites for an additional off-track betting facility" and evidently a municipality which is a prospective site has requested guidance as to how to proceed, i.e., referendum process or vote of the local legislative body. Significantly, Autotote is not applying for a license to the Gaming Policy Board, but instead, pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. 12-571a and 12-572, seeks the approval of the Executive Director regarding the proposed location of a new facility. While the advice and consent of the Gaming Policy Board is requisite pursuant to these statutes, this does not transform Autotote's request into a license application. In these circumstances, the specific provisions of these statutes relating to location as opposed to the general provisions relating to license application, must prevail. McKinley v. Musshorn, 185 Conn. 616, 624, 441 A.2d 600 (1981).

It is therefore our opinion that a request for approval of a new site for an off-track betting facility to the Executive Director does not implicate the referendum requirement of Conn. Gen. Stat. 12-574a.

Very truly yours,

RICHARD BLUMENTHAL
ATTORNEY GENERAL

Richard M. Sheridan
Assistant Attorney General


We here reproduce the statutory language in its Public Act form which shows deletions in brackets [ ], and insertions italicized.


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