If lawmakers keep dragging their feet on New York sports betting, regulators might move forward without them.
Two weeks ago, the US Supreme Court removed the federal prohibition that had stood in the way since 1992. States now have sovereignty over sports betting, and a few of them have already passed enabling laws.
The Empire State is one of them. Voters signed off on a commercial gambling package in 2013, authorizing the construction of four new NY casinos. The decision from SCOTUS activates the sports betting clause included in the referendum.
That law is too narrow, though. It limits sports betting to those four properties, excluding tribal casinos and the historic NY horse racing industry. There are no provisions for mobile wagering, and fees and taxes aren’t defined, either.
Lawmakers have been trying to broaden the language for months, but time is running out on the legislative calendar. Even if the legislature fails to act, however, regulators and operators could still proceed under the existing law.
A new NY sports betting law?
Sen. John Bonacic is doing what he can to move the conversation forward before he retires.
His bill (S 7900) is the one to watch, but it hasn’t come up on the Finance Committee calendar to date. Bonacic filed a small amendment last week, maybe a sign of movement beneath the surface.
The legislature is scheduled to adjourn on June 20, which leaves just three weeks to settle the issue. Or less?
According to the NY Daily News, Republicans are pushing to leave Albany a week early. Sen. Tom Croci has returned to military service, and his departure leaves the GOP one vote shy of a majority. Spokesman Scott Reif says the Senate will adjourn once “the people’s business” is done. “Anything else is a waste of taxpayer money.”
There is some appetite among Republicans (like Bonacic) but the finish line is still a long way off. Bills have been lodged in committees for months, so neither the Assembly nor the Senate has discussed sports betting in full.
The two chambers would need to align on all provisions in order to send a finished bill to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Regulators ready for NY sports betting?
Even if the legislature doesn’t pass a new law before adjourning, NY sports betting could still come together this year. From the sounds of it, regulators are almost ready to go.
The NYS Gaming Commission is responsible for oversight, led by Acting Executive Director Ron Ochyrm. At a recent board meeting in Manhattan, Ochrym told his colleagues they can expect a preliminary framework soon.
“Commission staff has long been working on regulations that would effectuate sports gambling under the existing statutory language. Staff anticipates being able to provide a draft for your review in the near term.”
You can watch the full hearing here.
Prior to that comment, regulators had flatly maintained that the situation was “under review.” And publicly, that is still the stance. A spokesman from the Commission provided a follow-up comment to PlayNY:
As we have previously discussed, New York law contains a sports wagering provision that can become effective upon a ruling of a court of competent jurisdiction that such activity is lawful. While the Supreme Court decision appears to have triggered this provision, Commission staff continue to review the decision to fully understand the potential implications on State law.
In the relative privacy of the boardroom, though, regulators say they’re on the verge of moving forward.
NY casinos anxious to take bets
The new casinos are already floundering financially, and some are pining for a chance to offer sports betting.
Of the four, Rivers Casino seems to have the most direct path to market. Rivers’ parent company, Rush Street Gaming, just hired Kambi to provide the sports betting tech for its two Pennsylvania casinos. CEO Greg Carlin said Rush Street would add sports betting “across all [its] gaming platforms as soon as possible.”
Expect that partnership to expand into NY when the time comes. Rivers just began offering off-track horse betting within its sports bar, and the space seems poised for another expansion in the near future.
Del Lago also has an appetite. Spokesman Steve Greenberg told the Finger Lakes Times that his property is “eager to offer sports betting” in light of the SCOTUS decision. “As we look forward to the upcoming football season and the Yankees post-season,” Greenberg said, “we are prepared to implement sports betting as quickly as possible.”
If the struggling del Lago is trying to catch the end of baseball season, regulators have about three months to finalize their work. That seems… ambitious. It may not be totally out of the question, though, if their comments before the board are true.
One last bummer: Final regulations are subject to a 45-day public comment period before becoming active.