Shelton's Arooga's, CT Lottery wagering on retail betting success

SHELTON — Arooga's Grille House and Sports Bar and the Connecticut Lottery Corp. are wagering that Shelton will soon become a hub for retail sports gambling. 

Officials, during a special grand opening ceremony last week, unveiled the retail PlaySugarHouse sportsbook in the restaurant at 387 Bridgeport Ave., with Mayor Mark Lauretti placing the ceremonial first bet. 

“This is my third grand opening this year,” Lauretti told those in attendance. “They say the third times a charm, so I have to believe this is going to be a winner.” 

Lauretti then placed a $20 wager on Syracuse University — where he once served as a graduate assistant coach under legendary head coach Jim Boeheim — to reach the finals of the NCAA Tournament. 

“This is a win-win for everybody,” said David McBride, of McBride Holding Company, owner of Arooga’s New England franchise locations. "Arooga's is the perfect match for a sportsbook as it has a vast variety of great bar food and apps that are popular with sports fans, over 50 beers on tap and over 75 televisions in an over 7,000-square-foot facility, which to be completely honest is probably too big in the post-COVID food and beverage world."

The joint effort was announced late last year, with McBride stating that "the vast size of the Arooga’s restaurant and the location within the rapidly growing Shelton area made it a logical choice for a sports wagering location.” 

Arooga’s is one of Connecticut Lottery’s 15 authorized retail sports betting sites in the state. Arooga’s grand opening included a new interior design. 

The dedicated area — for those 21 and older — includes a two-story video wall, multiple self-service kiosks and teller windows, and full food and drink service, according to McBride. 

Interior work included removing 14 booths to allow for the expanded gaming area, said Andrew Walter, director of business and legal operations for sports betting at Connecticut Lottery.

"This was a slight concern," McBride said, "however after careful review and evaluation we determined the projected increases in food and beverage sales throughout an entire week or month would be greater than the loss in any sales when the restaurant is at full capacity."

“We were looking for a spot on the Route 8 corridor, and Shelton — Arooga’s specifically — was a perfect fit,” Walter said. 

The sportsbook’s soft opening was Feb. 4, and Walter said the reaction has been positive. 

“It has been performing well … I’ve talked to first time betters, those who are returning, and there is genuine excitement about this,” he added. "We had a good performance for the Super Bowl, and I think that is a perfect lead into March Madness.” 

"We have seen an increase in sales when there are sporting events, and the Super Bowl was especially busy," McBride added. "The Shelton sales far exceeded our other two Arooga's locations (Attleboro, Mass., and Warwick, R.I.). We envision that this will continue when other sporting events are on. We really look forward to the upcoming basketball tournaments in March as we believe that will be a period of robust sales for the store."

Greg Smith, president and CEO of the Connecticut Lottery, said Arooga’s was a logical fit because it is already a well-established sports bar chain that provides high quality food, beverage and entertainment to its customers. 

“Our partners at Arooga’s share the same vision as CLC for making their Shelton property a destination for sports entertainment and sports betting,” Smith said. “I am excited to see this operation begin.”  

Connecticut players, ages 21 and older, can bet online throughout the state via the PlaySugarHouse platform from their mobile devices, tablets, desktop and laptop computers, or at one of the CLC’s retail sports betting locations throughout Connecticut.