New York sports betting has arrived. The first legal NY sportsbook at Rivers Casino & Resort Schenectady opened in July 2019. Online poker does not look to be imminent in the state.
New York’s journey toward legalizing sports betting (both retail and online) and online poker has been a struggle. While the Empire State passed a statute to legalize sports betting in 2013 and began the online poker conversation the same year, there are still neither active sports betting locations nor online poker sites in the state.
Sports betting is a source of fascination for New York legislators right now. One key lawmaker has even said sports betting is more important than online poker in terms of legislative priorities in 2019.
The state technically legalized sports wagering at the state’s four commercial casinos via a ballot measure earlier this decade and a constitutional amendment. However, the state has been unwilling to move forward on regulation without a new law on the books.
That recently changed, however. The New York State Gaming Commission approved a preliminary set of rules in January 2019.
Unfortunately, this first set of regulations does not include mobile sports betting. However, sports betting’s main legislative advocate, State Sen. Joseph Addabbo, Jr. remains committed to introducing mobile wagering legislation in the next legislative session.
So far, the citizens of New York have split evenly about the subject of online sports betting. Of course, the manner of its implementation and subsequent effect on tax revenues could change minds quickly.
Existing law allows for these upstate casinos and tribal casinos to have sports betting:
Expect others to launch soon.
Here is New York’s sports betting timeline for legislation:
Addabbo introduces S 17 in the Senate as a means to start the mobile sports betting conversation. Addabbo’s main goal is to amend the preliminary regulations to include mobile betting. State Assemblyman Gary Pretlow has announced that he will join Addabbo in the latter’s pursuit of online sports betting.
Early on, it looked like there might be some corporate support for sports betting in 2018. The NBA notably reversed its anti-sports betting stance and adopted a more progressive view of the practice.
However, 2018 became a rather frustrating time for sports betting advocates. Legislation stalled out in committees, and nothing really happened.
Two additional sports betting bills show up in this year’s legislative session. Assemblyman David Weprin and Sen. Tony Avella introduced A 5438 and S 1282, respectively, which were the updated versions of bills the two had championed for many years.
The companion bills sought to extend the sports betting prerogative to the state’s horseracing tracks and off-track betting locations. However, neither bill brought about any kind of concrete activity in terms of opening a sportsbook in the state.
Weprin and Avella introduce a different version of their sports betting expansion bills. However, these bills (which did not pass) were functionally the same as the ones that came later.
Incidentally, the state clamped down on daily fantasy sports the same year, telling DraftKings and FanDuel to stop their activities. It took another year for a DFS bill to become law and reinstate the practice in the Empire State.
New York voters approve a gaming expansion ballot initiative that had two immediate effects. The first of these elements was to allow the construction of four commercial casinos upstate.
New York companies have since constructed and opened those facilities.
The second part of the initiative was to approve sports betting. However, at the time, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) remained in place. Sports betting did not gain federal approval until 2018, when the Supreme Court dismissed PASPA utterly and completely.
The idea of legal and regulated online poker in the state of New York first surfaced in 2013. That’s when the state Senate included licensing fees from the legalization of online poker in its initial state budget projections.
Of course, the measure never made it into the state’s final budget. However, it effectively got state lawmakers talking about the possibility of online poker coming to New York.
Here’s a look at the timeline so far:
Addabbo remains gambling’s strongest advocate in New York. He introduced S 18 to classify interactive poker as a game of skill under the law.
The law, if passed, would open the door to legalized online poker in the state. However, the Department of Justice has presented a legal roadblock that might doom the practice of the gate.
The DOJ announced in January 2019 that the Wire Act actually had legal standing over all interstate gambling, not just sports betting. So, potentially, the federal government could move to strike the multistate compact, which allows several states to combiner their player pools.
Needless to say, no gambling proponent is happy about the DOJ’s actions. At this point, most efforts are in a holding pattern while waiting for the DOJ to release its prosecutorial guidelines.
Despite a great deal of chatter on both poker and sports betting, neither was legalized in the state.
While online poker bills were again introduced and considered, they failed to get much traction. The Assembly continued to be wary of moving the bill forward.
The same went for sports betting. Although lawmakers were actively engaged on the subject in the spring, neither chamber ultimately voted on a bill.
All four of the state’s commercial casinos also have sports betting deals in place, should the state decide to move forward in 2019 or beyond.
From an online poker perspective, the start of New York’s 2017 legislative session looked a lot like the year before. Sen. Bonacic introduced similar online poker legislation. Assemblyman Pretlow introduced an identical bill to the Assembly. However, something was different.
He had been quick to dismiss its chances in years past. However, Assemblyman Pretlow was suddenly claiming he saw little standing in the way of online poker legislation passing in 2017.
The New York Senate passed the bill by a vote of 54-8 in June. In fact, online poker legislation looked like a good bet to go beyond where it had gone a year earlier. But in the end, it really didn’t.
Assemblyman Pretlow got the bill passed through his Racing, Wagering and Gaming Committee, but it died there. New York lawmakers got busy with the issue of mayoral oversight of NYC schools. No more action was taken on online poker before the legislative session ended.
Two bills looking to legalize and regulate online poker were introduced to the state Senate and Assembly again in January 2016. Sen. Bonacic and Assemblyman Pretlow were the politicians behind the bills once again. For the first time, however, it looked like the online poker bills were going to get a seriously look.
In fact, Sen. Bonacic got the bill passed by the Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee after a 9-0 vote. The passage marked the first time online poker legislation had escaped the introduction stage in the state.
Online poker tax revenue made it into the Senate’s budget projections again. In fact, it looked like there was some real momentum behind the bills.
However, public comments by Assemblyman Pretlow suggested online poker was a 100 to 1 shot to even hit the floor in the Assembly. Plus, the lack of any real movement since the Senate committee passing dampened hope.
At the end of May 2016, an online poker bill passed was passed by the Senate Finance Committee. It headed to the Senate floor and, in fact, the Senate passed the bill by a vote of 53-5. It marked the first time an online poker bill had been passed by any chamber of the New York legislature. However, the same day it passed, Assemblyman Pretlow said the legislative effort was dead. This suggested the Assembly had no plans to even discuss the issue in the 2016 legislative session. It proved true.
The 2016 legislative session ended in June and online poker missed again. However it was a session that saw great strides for online poker legislation. In fact, New York was suddenly being considered a favorite to pass an online poker bill in 2017.
The 2014 legislative session ended in New York with zero action on the online poker bills introduced.
The 2015 session kicked off with Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow, chair of the Assembly Committee on Racing and Wagering, claiming the bills would be re-introduced. However, Assemblyman Pretlow also said the chances the bills would become law, or even reach a vote, were extremely slim.
“Online poker will not happen within the year, but there will probably be hearings,” he said in January 2015.
In fact, there were hearings. However, the 2015 New York legislative session ended the same way it did in 2014, without a vote on the online poker bills introduced to the state Senate and Assembly.
In 2014, two identical bills seeking to legalize and regulate online poker in New York surfaced in the state Senate and Assembly.
State Sen. John Bonacic, who chairs the Senate Committee on Racing, Gaming and Wagering, introduced the Senate bill. However, he admitted at the time the introduction of the bill was just a way to start having a discussion on the issue. In fact, there was little interest in passing a law right away
“New Yorkers are today spending millions on overseas, illegal gaming sites that have no consumer protections or effective restrictions to keep minors from playing,” Sen. Bonacic said. “I believe we need to start having a discussion on addressing this issue. That is why I have introduced legislation which would regulate online poker here in New York to protect consumers, prevent underage gaming, and combat problem gaming.”
The online poker legislation before the state Senate and Assembly sets out a number of rules and regulations which would govern the industry. Regulators may adjust these before any online poker bill becomes law, but include: