Attorney General's Opinion
Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal
March 21, 2002
Susan G. Townsley
Division of Special Revenue
555 Russell Road
Hartford, CT 06111
Dear Ms. Townsley:
This is in response to your request for an opinion on whether a greyhound racing association licensee can block the simulcasting of similar racing events during days and times when it is not conducting its own racing events pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. §12-571a(c)(1). For the following reasons, our answer is negative.
The statute in consideration provides as follows:
Conn. Gen. Stat. §12-571a(c) (emphasis added).
You indicate that the Division of Special Revenue’s (DOSR) policy concerning this issue previously had been that an association licensee could withhold consent for, or block, the simulcasting of similar activity only during the timeframe it was authorized to have performances. Specifically, the DOSR allowed an association licensee to block simulcasting any day the licensee actually conducted racing, and the DOSR also allowed the association licensee to block on a day it was not operating if it was operating during the rest of the week. However, when an association licensee was closed for a two week period, the DOSR did not permit blocking by that association licensee during this two week timeframe.
Recently, the DOSR was asked as to its policy for blocking when an association licensee is closed more than one day per week but less than two weeks. In response to this inquiry, DOSR staff announced a new interpretation which limits blocking rights to the time period when an association licensee is actually conducting its own activity:
Letter from Joseph Tontini to Karen Keelan (and other licensees) dated September 10, 2001 (Emphasis added).
You ask for our opinion as to whether this is a proper interpretation. As demonstrated below, we conclude that this latest interpretation is correct.
In interpreting statutes, the first step is to examine the language used by the legislature. "[W]hen the language of a statute is plain and unambiguous, we need look no further than the words themselves because we assume that the language expresses the legislature’s intent.&quto; American Universal Ins. Co. v. DelGreco, 205 Conn. 178, 193, 530 A.2d 171 (1987). The emphasized language in the statute, and the DOSR’s interpretation, focuses on the use of the term "authorized to conduct" as used in the statute. Under the statute, the OTB operator may simulcast dog racing only with the written consent of an association licensee authorized to conduct that same activity within 40 miles of the OTB facility. The phrase, authorized to conduct, in this part of Conn. Gen. Stat. §12-571(a)(c)(1), clearly identifies who can block simulcasting, but it does not expressly answer the question of when it can block.
In this circumstance, we must look further to ascertain the intent of the legislature. In this exercise, we examine the language of the statute, its legislative history, and the purpose the statute is to serve. American Universal Insurance Co. v. DelGreco, supra at 193. In addition, the statute must be considered as a whole, with a view toward reconciling its separate parts in order to render a reasonable overall interpretation. Id. Relevant regulations also must be read consistent with the statutory purpose. See, id at 196.
Focusing again on the term "authorized to conduct", we note that association licensees are only authorized to conduct their activity during specified days and hours which are subject to significant regulatory overview. See, e.g., Bridgeport Jai Alai v. Gaming Policy Board, 3 Conn. App. 254, 487 A.2d 208 (1985). In this regard, the Gaming Policy Board sets racing dates and delegates to the Executive Director of the DOSR the authority to set make-up performance dates within the period of a meeting set by the Board. Conn. Gen. Stat. §12-557(e)(3). The regulations are very specific, as to the setting of dates, post times, and numbers of races:
Reg. Sec. 12-574-F3(a)(1) provides in pertinent part:
(a) Jai alai and greyhound operating dates; number of games or races.
(1) Generally. The board shall approve the number of jai alai playing and greyhound racing days to be awarded, which shall not be less than one hundred (100) days in a year unless the board waives this requirement for an association’s initial year of operation. Unless delegated to the division by the board in accordance with section 12-574-F2(a) of the Regulations of Connecticut State Agencies, the board shall approve the actual days awarded, the number of performances, the post times of the first game or race for each performance and the number of games or races in each performance.
Given the specificity of this regulation, activity beyond that which is permitted is prohibited. Accordingly, when the legislature allowed blocking of simulcasting by association licensees "authorized to conduct" the same activity in Conn. Gen. Stat. §12-571a(c)(1), we must assume that it was mindful of this statutory and regulatory scheme and intended consistency within the scheme.1 See, e.g., Town of Southington v. Commercial Union Ins. Co., 254 Conn. 348, 357, 757 A.2d 549 (2000); American Universal Insurance Co. V. DelGreco, supra at 193. Therefore, a licensee is only authorized to conduct its activity during its approved racing dates and times. Correspondingly, its blocking rights are limited to those times as well.
The legislative history of CGS 12-571a(c) is in accord. This legislation was enacted in 1994. See 1994 Conn. Pub. Acts. No. 94-223. Shortly before, Connecticut had sold its state-run Off Track Betting system to a private company. See 1993 Conn. Pub. Acts. 93-332. Concerns were raised that the private company would not have the same interest in simulcasting local racing programs as did Connecticut when it owned the OTB system. See Legislative History, Remarks of Karen Kinsman, Edward Keelan, Public Safety Committee, 1994 Joint Standing Committee Hearings Pt. 2, p.451, et. seq.; Attachment A. Against this backdrop, the legislature was asked to enact legislation to balance the rights under the new system. On introduction of the amendment to the bill which became Public Act 94-223, Representative Fritz, co-sponsor of the bill, explained:
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. This amendment that’s before us now is a result of long months of I would say arduous negotiations and so at this point I would like to summarize it and to say that in Sections -- lines 86 to 97, we have the protection of the signal for the Plainfield Dog Track and for our facilities within the state as well as the allowance for the out-of-state dog racing events to be carried at the OTB facilities when our facilities are not showing events.
37 H.Proc. 1994 Sess. Pt. 19, at p.6709; Attachment A.
These remarks of Rep. Fritz, read in connection with the language of the Public Act, show that the intent of the legislature, in part, was to protect the simulcast signal of local race tracks. Obviously, when these tracks are not running races, there is no signal to protect. Consequently, there is no reason for blocking rights during such dark times and there is no justification for reading the statute so as to create such a right.
In sum, we conclude that a greyhound racing association licensee cannot block the simulcasting of similar racing events during the days and times when it is not conducting its own racing events under Conn. Gen. Stat. §12-571a(c)(1).
Very truly yours,
Robert F. Vacchelli
Assistant Attorney General
1Reg. Sec. 12-574-F3(a)(1) consolidated several regulations in a recent reorganization effort, published Oct. 30, 2001. The pertinent language at issue here was contained in previous regulation Sec. 12-574-C7a(e), (Rev. to 1985). Section (c) was added to CGS § 12-571a by Public Act 94-223, effective June 8, 1994. The regulatory language at issue was thus in effect at the time of the enactment of the statute.