New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is still saying that New York could be legalizing mobile sports betting this session. Previously stating that it could take years to clear legal hurdles to bring mobile betting to the Empire State, Cuomo now says “it’s possible”.
What Is Legal in New York?
Sports wagering is already legal in the state of New York, albeit in a less than satisfying way. Current state law only allows for in-person sports betting at New York’s four upstate casinos. Cuomo believed that in order to bring remote betting to the state, they would need an amendment to the state constitution.
Many argued that mobile sports betting could be legalized in New York without an amendment, including Gary Pretlow (D-Mount Vernon). Pretlow sponsors mobile sports betting bill in the Assembly.
State Senator Joseph Addabbo has argued that mobile gambling could be legalized without an amendment, so long as the computer servers used in the wagering are physically in those casinos. However, bettors would still have to first physically go to the upstate casinos to provide ID and register before being allowed to bet remotely.
New York Sports Betting Timeline
The first sports betting bill in New York appeared back in 2009. The goal of the bill was to allow horse tracks and off-track betting facilities to allow for sports betting. However, the bill never made its way through committee.
Senator Eric Adams, who introduced the first sports betting bill in 2009, introduced a new copy of his bill in 2011. The bill was backed up by another in the lower chamber. Assemblyman David Weprin’s bill contained most of the same language as Adams’ but allowed for collegiate wagering as well. Senator Tony Avella introduced a bill in the Senate as well. All three bills stalled in committee but were reintroduced in 2013.
A ballot referendum to expand gaming to help stimulate the economy in upstate New York came about in 2013. The amendment was passed with 57 percent of voters approving the gambling expansion, which allowed for the four upstate casinos to be built. Under the referendum, the four casinos were authorized to allow a number of gambling options, including sports betting. Once all the casinos were built, none had sportsbooks due to the federal law prohibiting them from doing so.
In 2015 Weprin and Avella reintroduced sports betting bills to allow for legal sports betting to expand to horse tracks and off-track betting facilities. New York was considering daily fantasy sports legislation at this time. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman considered sports betting and daily fantasy sports to be similar. He ordered FanDuel and DraftKings to cease operations in the state until New York passed a fantasy sports law in 2016. Weprin and Avella’s bills returned to the Judiciary Committee in their respective chambers and stalled yet again.
Assemblyman Gary Pretlow, Chairman of the Assembly’s Racing and Wagering Committee, announced in 2017 that he was looking to legalize sports betting. “I’m looking at challenging the feds on this,” he said.
In 2018 the Supreme Court ruling to overturn PASPA allowed for New York to act on its 2013 ballot referendum to allow for sports betting at the state’s four commercial casinos.
In 2019 Senator Joseph Addabbo, the chairman of the Senate Racing, Wagering and Gaming Committee, introduced bill S 17. The New York State Gaming Commission approved preliminary rules and regulations for sports betting, but they did not include any mobile or online components. Pretlow joins Addabbo’s push towards online sports betting to be included in the final rules and regulations.
Now we are waiting to see if mobile sports betting will make its way to New York during this session.
What Mobile Would Look Like in New York
Bill S 17 allows for mobile sports betting at New York’s commercial and tribal casinos, expanding on a ballot referendum that authorizes land-based sports betting at the state’s commercial casinos in 2013.
A number of state officials are hoping that all of New York’s gaming stakeholders (racetracks, racinos, and off-track betting facilities) can participate in mobile sports betting. Chairman Joseph Addabbo Jr. is one of those people. “The way I see it, this is a puzzle that the pieces are still missing,” Addabbo said. “We need to move forward today in order to keep this momentum going, but the bottom line is this may not be the last version of the bill. It all depends on what direction the governor wants to take.”
The bill was advanced to address the concern that up to 25% of the sports betting revenue in New Jersey is from New York residents. Addabbo has said that New York needs S 17 in order to stop revenue from leaving the state.
New York City sports bettors will be left with the choice to travel four or more hours upstate to register at one of the upstate casinos in order to be able to bet from their homes or continue traveling over to New Jersey (or Pennsylvania) each time they want to place a bet. Perhaps one trip to upstate New York is worth being able to bet freely from home, as opposed to having to leave the house to bet every time. One thing is for sure, if there is no mobile in New York, bettors in NYC will continue to travel the shorter distance to PA or NJ instead of the long journey upstate.
“New York is losing tens of millions of dollar right now — and the money is going to education. Everyone should be excited about doing this,” said Pretlow.
The legislative session in New York expires at the end of June.