Cuomo Budget Makes Small Concession To Retail Sportsbooks In New York

Posted on February 14, 2020

New York is one of the most restrictive states among those with legal sports betting. The most recent budget proposal from Gov. Andrew Cuomo eases that in a small way, however.

Currently, commercial and tribal casinos in the state can only accept bets within their designated wagering spaces. If lawmakers approve Cuomo’s proposal, that will change slightly.

How the Cuomo budget proposal could change the rules

Cuomo’s suggestion opens the options for bettors a little. In his budget, he proposes altering the regulations so casinos could accept wagers anywhere on their properties.

This would allow operators like Rivers Casino to place wagering kiosks throughout their properties. That might include entryways, the main gaming floor, perhaps even the parking garages.

While drive-up betting kiosks might represent a new level of convenience for customers, there’s a downside to that for the casinos. Sports betting is more of an amenity than a main attraction for them.

Sports betting isn’t a high-profit product for most operators. It’s merely something to get people in the door. Casinos hope that while bettors are there, they will also play table games, dine or stay at hotels.

It’s similar logic to why grocery stores put their most essential products at the rear of their aisles. The more of the inducements to spend consumers are faced with, the easier it is to get them to open their wallets.

Because of that, casinos may not change much even if the law changes. That likely means more of the same dismal returns for sportsbooks in the state.

New York’s restrictions have kept sports betting irrelevant

In a speech as he introduced his budget for the year, Cuomo made somewhat of a prophetic utterance. He said there won’t be any new casino revenue.

That’s true because of the state’s geographical and legal framework. Not only is sports betting restricted to brick-and-mortar operators, but none of those are within a two-hour drive of New York City.

Most residents of New York City can more easily cross the state line into New Jersey to place legal bets. It’s also possible that a good number of New Yorkers around the state opt to use illegal channels instead of making the drive to a casino.

That’s why despite its population and abundance of professional sports franchises, revenue from sports betting remains almost nonexistent. For example, the four commercial casino sportsbooks pulled in just $1.3 million in revenue last November.

New York’s state gaming commission doesn’t report handle on a monthly basis, only revenue. Those figures don’t account for expenses or taxes, so actual profit out of that $1.3 million is likely very little, if any at all.

The solution to that problem goes beyond opening up sports betting on casino properties. It includes allowing online sportsbooks to operate in the state. That’s unlikely any time soon, however.

Why online sports betting isn’t in the cards right now

Cuomo was also clear about his stance on expanding gambling in the state right now. Despite the fact that the state is currently studying exactly that, the governor isn’t on board.

Online sportsbook operators may have to wait for a new governor to take Cuomo’s place. Even if they get a friendly replacement, it may still take years to legalize online wagering because of concerns with the state constitution, however.

Cuomo’s proposal represents the small wiggle room he has within the current framework. It’s unlikely to have any real effect, but he acknowledges that. For the foreseeable future, this is the best New York can do.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Kansas City, Mo. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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