Attorney General's Opinion
Attorney General Richard Blumenthal
March 15, 1994
Honorable Thomas D. Ritter
Speaker of the House
House of Representatives
Legislative Office Building
Hartford, CT 06106-1591
Dear Speaker Ritter:
You have requested the opinion of this office as to whether "it would be possible for the Milford and Hartford Jai Alai to be the subject of wagering at off-track betting (OTB) facilities." The statutes, as presently drafted, do not permit the incorporation of jai alai games as part of the OTB system.
Conn.Gen.Stat. 12-572 as amended by Public Act 93-3321 establishes the parameters of permissible wagering which can be offered in the off-track betting system (hereinafter, OTB). This provision permits the Division, or other business organization, "to establish and conduct a system of off-track betting on races held within or without the state ..." (emphasis added).
The term "race" or "races" is nowhere defined in the statutes. Accordingly, its meaning must be derived from the context in which it is used and its common, ordinary meaning. Kelemen v. Rimrock Corp., 207 Conn. 599, 604, 542 A.2d 720 (1988); Beloff v. Progressive Casualty Insurance Co., 203 Conn. 45, 59, 523 A.2d 477 (1987).
A perusal of the various provisions of the controlling statutes reveals that a sharp distinction is drawn between racing and a jai alai game. Thus, Conn.Gen.Stat. 12-574a(b) provides that "(N)o licensee may conduct any racing or jai alai event on any Sunday ..." without local approval (emphasis added). This distinction is repeated many times in the statutes. See, e.g., Conn.Gen.Stat. 12-574(p), 12-575(a), 12-575(b) and 12-575(k). Thus, the relevant statutes relating to those activities which may lawfully be presented as part of an OTB system specifically focus upon "races" conducted within or without the geographical boundaries of the State. Jai alai activity, on the other hand, is consistently described in the statutes as an "exhibition of the game of jai alai." Conn.Gen.Stat. 12-574(p). It is a maxim of statutory construction that "the use of different words ... must indicate a difference in legislative intention...." Plourde v. Liburdi, 207 Conn. 412, 416, 540 A.2d 1054, (1988) (citations omitted).
Of course, as a matter of public policy, the General Assembly may determine that any legal gambling activity is a proper subject of OTB wagering. However, to date, the legislature has not made such a determination. On the contrary, it has restricted the scope of permissible activity to those which involve "races" or "racing."
The General Assembly could easily have provided that the exhibition of jai alai was a "race" for the purposes of OTB wagering. However, it has not done so. "Where, as here, the language of the statute is clear and unambiguous, courts may not by construction supply omissions in a statute, or add exceptions merely because it appears to them that good reasons exist for doing so." Simko v. Zoning Board of Appeals, 205 Conn. 413, 418, 533 A.2d 879 (1987). The U.S. Supreme Court, perhaps, has said it best:
It is therefore our opinion that, absent legislative action, the game of jai alai is not an authorized activity which may be presented for OTB wagering.2
Very truly yours,
Richard M. Sheridan
Assistant Attorney General
Footnote: 1 One of the purposes of this Public Act was to authorize the "privatization" of OTB. Pursuant to this authority, the OTB system was sold to, and is presently operated by, a private corporation. 2 We would observe that the Division of Special Revenue Regulations, Operation of Jai Alai, 12-574-D14a(c), expressly prohibit the sale of pari-mutuel tickets at a place other than the fronton at which the game is played.