Nothing is easy in this political climate. Perhaps unnecessarily, the idea of legislating mobile sports betting in the state of New York has become an over-complicated task for lawmakers, including Governor Andrew Cuomo who was once an avid opponent of internet-based betting for his state.
However, there has been some light at the end of a very long mobile sports betting tunnel in the Empire State. The state’s budget is about to come down, and all signs are pointing to a version of mobile sports betting, although seemingly flawed, being included in the final wording as a way to pump $200 billion in aid to the state’s beleaguered economy.
“Mobile sports betting we think could raise $500 million dollars. Many states have done it. Here the question is not really whether or not we do mobile sports betting, the question is more how?” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo recently said.
Background of the Long Battle to Get to This Point
The state of New York has long been identified as one of the sports betting markets that could become a dominant force. While there has been a platform in place for years, it doesn’t include a mobile wing, one that contributes north of 90% of the handles of their neighbor and “King of the Bet-Friendly States”, New Jersey.
New Jersey, for the record, estimates that 25% of their record-setting handles comes from New York bettors who just want to place a bet from their mobile device.
As it stands in New York, there are only four retail-only sports betting facilities, all upstate, far from the urban centers and out of reach for a huge swath of the Empire State population. Because of this fact, New York has missed out on millions in revenues and tax contributions from a platform that is being utilized by its own citizens, on the Black Market and just across the river in New Jersey.
Politicians in New York including Governor Cuomo had been resistant to a mobile betting platform until the pressures of mounting debt due to COVID-19 forced those opponents to re-evaluate their position.
What’s at Stake
Mobile sports betting is the present and future of wagering in the US. Betting providers have worked hard to bolster their mobile capabilities and are now targeting states with liberal sports betting laws.
An estimated $139.8 million to $174.8 million, all the way up to Cuomo’s prediction of $500 million in annual tax revenue is expected to be generated for tapped-out state and local coffers in New York, making the plan for legal mobile sports betting very attractive for all involved.
“New York has the potential to be the largest sports wagering market in the United States, and by legalizing online sports betting we aim to keep millions of dollars in tax revenue here at home, which will only strengthen our ability to rebuild from the Covid-19 crisis,” Governor Cuomo said in a statement.
Inclusion in the Budget
A sign of progress in New York toward a long-awaited, much-needed mobile sports betting platform came in the form of a telephone briefing by Governor Cuomo Monday in which he discussed among other things, the budget, even though the deadline for inclusions passed on April 1. On that list of talking points was the idea of mobile sports betting.
Cuomo assured those on the call that there had been agreement as to what would be included in the upcoming fiscal budget. He also mentioned the fact that there hadn’t been a resolution on a myriad of topics as of yet – mobile sports betting appears to be on that list of what hasn’t been decided on.
Governor Cuomo’s plan is not without its own set of controversies. Firstly, there is his plan to hand the regulatory duties over to the State Lottery – a model that has certainly been underwhelming in jurisdictions it is in control of.
“There are two ways to do it. You can give casinos the right to run mobile sports betting. You take the casinos in the state and you give them the license to run mobile sports betting and then they operate it, and they make the profits. They would pay taxes to the state but the casinos make the profits.” Cuomo said.
“The second way to do it is the way we do the state lottery. We will contract directly with the mobile sports vendor, … we’ll contract with them and we’ll make the money. We don’t need the casinos as a middleman. That’s the first point of contention: should you let the casinos make the money or should the state make the money directly? My position is the state should make the money directly and then let the state decide what to do with it.”
The second potential hang-up is the inclusion/omission of the tribal casinos in New York. Tribal leaders hope to have a say in what a potential mobile platform will look like and hope to have a piece of the impending profits from such a plan. While lawmakers are seemingly working toward that end, there has been no definitive word about Tribal participation thus far.
In the end, is appears as though it will be “Governor Cuomo’s way or the highway” in New York with regards to any potential mobile sports betting platform. Sen. Joseph Addabbo, chair of the Senate Racing, Gaming, and Wagering Committee has given any legislation a “50-50 chance” at passing, leaving industry insiders waiting yet again for any sort of resolution on the matter.
Lawmakers have been doing their part to bring mobile sports betting to New York despite the feeling that Governor Cuomo will go with the plan that he sees as the best fit. House Bills A 3009 and A 1257 lay out what the platform would look like and along with Senate Bill S 2509B are tangible drafts that appear to have been well thought through and ready for rollout at a moment’s notice.
It appears as though much of the heavy lifting toward a mobile sports betting platform in New York has been done. All that is left is the inclusion of such a plan on the next budget, which is already overdue largely because of the extra scrutiny that mobile betting has spawn in New York.
It is still a “wait and see” for legal mobile sports betting in New York but such a platform is closer than it ever has been.