Addabbo On New York Online Sports Betting Launch: ‘It’s Our Turn, Watch Us Shine’

Written By Mike Mazzeo on January 7, 2022 - Last Updated on March 9, 2022
Sen. Joe Addabbo NY online sports betting launch

New York State Senator Joe Addabbo will finally be able to get his coffee in peace.

For months, Addabbo had been getting blitzed by sports bettors at his local java hut in Queens, and they had the same gripe: I’m tired of going to New Jersey. When is online sports betting going to be up in New York?

“I’d get agitated, and say, ‘It’s coming. It’s coming,’” Addabbo said.

It will finally come on Saturday, when four of the NY online sports betting operators — FanDuel, DraftKings, Caesars and BetRivers (Rush Street) — officially begin taking wagers.

The road to Jan. 8 launch was long and arduous, complicated and contentious. But NY has finally crossed the goal-line.

“Now when I see the (sports betting) commercials on TV, I’m not going to be as frustrated. I’m not going to want to throw my shoe at the TV anymore,” Addabbo said. “Because it’s not targeting New Yorkers to go to New Jersey, it’s targeting New Yorkers to stay on their couch and do it safely.”

How Addabbo found out about NY’s Saturday launch

Addabbo had been optimistic that NY could launch as soon as the second or third week of January. And he knew that things were close.

But an exact date had been hard to pin down — until he received an email from the NY State Gaming Commission right before they made an official announcement to the public at noon on Thursday. Addabbo praised NYSGC executive director Rob Williams and the rest of the commission for meeting every deadline, and even launching well before Super Bowl LVI, a key benchmark for the state.

“We did it,” Addabbo said. “Two years of being persistent and talking about all the facts and figures and why we need to do this. I’m thankful to everyone involved.”

There were a lot of obstacles. At first, former NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo didn’t want any part of gaming. Then he insisted on a 51% tax rate and closed competition, against the wishes of policymakers in the state. And there was a change in administration to deal with as well.

But everything got accomplished anyway and the launch is mere hours away.

“I remember talking to Rob (a few months ago), and he said, ‘Joe, I don’t know if we can hit the Super Bowl. And I said, ‘Rob, I think we have to,’” Addabbo said. “Because you don’t want your first day to be the Super Bowl. Imagine if you had a glitch or a crash? You want to start before the Super Bowl to work all the kinks out.

“But ‘I don’t know’ turned into ‘I think we’re on track to be up in the middle of the NFL playoffs.’ And now, look at this.”

Why NYSGC didn’t wait for all operators to be ready

Addabbo and NY assemblyman Gary Pretlow wanted a same-day launch for all operators to prevent a competitive rush to market. But Addabbo acknowledged that some would not be ready for the start date determined by the NYSGC. And that turned out to be the case.

Rush Street (BetRivers) has its own upstate commercial casino, Rivers, in Schenectady, minutes from the NYSGC office. FanDuel (Tioga Downs) and DraftKings (del Lago) already have physical sportsbooks in upstate commercial casinos. Some in the industry expressed surprise that BetMGM, given its size and stature, wasn’t included in the initial wave of launches.

A source at one of the five online sports betting operators — BetMGM, Bally’s, PointsBet, WynnBet and Resorts World — that haven’t launched yet said the NYSGC referred to it as a “phased approach.”

“In eight out of 10 states, this is how they do things,” the source said. “The reality is that regulators do things where they get a few operators off their plate and then get through the rest. It’s still annoying for everybody involved.”

The expectation is that all nine operators should be up by the end of January, if not sooner, in time for New York Super Bowl betting.

“They’re just not ready. And a lot of it had to do with the servers,” Addabbo said. “It wasn’t about getting started on a certain date. It’s about getting started right. MGM, a behemoth in the industry, they’ll be fine. If it’s a couple days or a week away, they’re going to be fine. Because they’re gonna start within the NFL playoffs, most likely before the Super Bowl.

“I don’t think there’s anything technically wrong with them. They’ve just got to cross some Ts and dot some Is. I think they’ll be fine.”

What Addabbo plans doing on launch day

For many New Yorkers, this weekend will be a bit different than usual.

There’s simply no need to take NJ Transit to Secaucus or the PATH to Hoboken to place bets.

As Addabbo noted, the George Washington Bridge may also not be as populated with locals pulling out their phones to place wagers when they cross the NY/NJ border.

Even the now-famous Linwood Pizzeria in Fort Lee may end up losing business. It is thought that 20% of NJ’s sports betting handle was coming from NY, which is projected to become the most lucrative sports betting state in America.

“We gave New Jersey a head start. Now it’s our turn. And now watch us shine,” Addabbo said.

Addabbo, an avid fan of the Mets, claims he won’t be pounding their World Series futures on Saturday.

“Nope. Nope. That’s not me. I like watching sports and playing them when I have time. I love that. But that’s not me,” Addabbo said. “I was more concerned about all the money going to New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Now it’s about getting that money back and making sure we spend it correctly.”

Instead, Addabbo says he’ll reach out to some of his friends who like to bet.

“I’m gonna make some calls,” Addabbo said. “I do have friends of mine that are going to be singing on and maybe placing a bet on Sunday. I want to just check in with them and make sure everything is going OK.”

So … what’s next?

The hope is that the money flows in as expected.

But as sharp bettor “Spanky” Kyrollos joked via Twitter: “The number of people in New York that will place the first sport bet of their life tomorrow is 0.”

Yes, the majority of bettors have wagered in neighboring states or with their illegal bookie, where they can bet on credit and not have to give any personal information out. And there are concerns that lines and promos could be impacted by the 51% tax rate (though the promos seem pretty comparable in other states, at least in the early-going).

Addabbo understands the pressure is on to make a good first impression.

“I always refer back to my little concern, and I know it’s hard to ask a New Yorker to stop what you’re doing with Jersey, Pennsylvania or your bookie, whatever, come try our product and stay with us long-term,” Addabbo said. “Because that’s what we’re going to need to sustain a successful mobile sports betting product in NY. And it’s going to be hard. As I’ve said before, this isn’t just turning on a light switch. There’s going to be bumps in the road.”

NY online sports betting to help fun education programs and create jobs

Addabbo is fully prepared to make changes as needed, depending on how NY fares over a six-eight month period. He also met earlier in the week with Jim Maney, the executive director for the NY Council on Problem Gambling. Addabbo knows calls on the addiction hotline are going to increase.

“I thanked Jim for his input,” Addabbo said. “They were thankful for the extra $6 million the state is giving them for addiction programs, but they’re concerned with how it’s going to be spent. And I told him, ‘You’re right. We need to make sure it’s spent wisely, and the protocols and safety measures are done correctly.’”

Either way, Addabbo says, even the staunchest of opponents to online sports betting can at least appreciate the revenue it will bring in for the state to help fund education programs and create jobs.

“To start off 2022 like this, you have no idea how primed we are for a great sports season this year for New York and all our sports bettors,” Addabbo said.

Photo by AP / Mary Altaffer
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Mike Mazzeo

Mike Mazzeo is a contributing writer for PlayNY, reporting on legal sports betting in New York while covering the potential legalization of NY online casinos and poker. He previously wrote for ESPN, the New York Daily News and The Ringer, among others.

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