Law not needed
New York appears to no longer need a constitutional amendment to legalize mobile sports betting. It could now be legal by the end of June. Many New Yorkers cross state lines into New Jersey every week in order to place sports bets. But that flow could now be stemmed quickly.
A law passed in 2013 makes it legal for the four upstate commercial casinos in New York to open sportsbooks. With the federal ban no longer valid, Governor Andrew Cuomo is backing legalization. During his State of the State address in January he said: “Let’s authorize sports betting in the upstate casinos. It’s here. It’s a reality, and it will generate activity in those casinos.”
The four casinos – Del Lago Resort, Tioga Downs, Rivers Casino and the Resorts World Catskills Casino – will open their sportsbooks in the very near future. They have struggled to attract visitors and meet their revenue forecasts since they first opened. Sports betting should attract more people to the facilities.
The effort to bring statewide sports betting has been met with a lot of resistance. There was a public hearing in May at which key stakeholders were present to make their thoughts on the issue known to officials.
There were two main camps on the issue. One side believes that a constitutional amendment is needed to legalize mobile sports betting. The other side does not believe that this is a requirement.
Cuomo appears to have made a U-turn on his previous view that a constitutional amendment is needed. He now says that before the current legislative session ends in June mobile sports betting could be legal.
He was speaking on the radio to WAMC when he said: “It’s possible. I think the time is short and the list is long, so I would counsel the legislative leaders to get the priorities done, because these priorities are not easy.”
State Senator Joseph Addabbo, chair of the Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee, has led efforts to legalize mobile sports betting. He chaired the recent public hearing on the issue. He believes that once the computer servers hosting online sports betting are physically within New York state, no constitutional amendment will be needed. Such an amendment would need a public vote.
Under the proposals, a player would have to physically register for an online account at one of the four upstate casinos. Addabbo appears to be surprised at Cuomo’s apparent change of mind. He said: “The last conversation I had with . . . the governor’s office was last week, and we were still not on the same page.”
All eyes on late June
Assemblyman Gary Pretlow is among those now pressing to legalize mobile sports betting before the end of June when the legislative session closes. He is one of the main proponents of sports betting in the state.
He said: “New York is losing tens of millions of dollar right now — and the money is going to education — [so] everyone should be excited about doing this.”
Pretlow is now confident that Cuomo is suitably agreeable that the constitutional questions are not valid in this case. The basis for this view is that horse racing tracks in New York have long been able to offer mobile where servers are physically on the premises. Pretlow says this is “basically a no-brainer”.