It may seem silly, even tactless, to bring up mobile sports betting in New York during a time the state – specifically New York City – is wading through its most tragic stretch since the weeks following 9/11.
But the news that New York is likely to end 2020 without mobile sports betting could have serious financial ramifications for a state likely to be dealing with funding concerns throughout the 2020s.
One prominent lawmaker has even called Gov. Andrew Cuomo irresponsible for his distancing of what could have been a revenue-building expansion of sports wagering, and even downstate casinos, in New York.
State budget finalized, but mobile sports betting left in the cold
Legal Sports Report broke the news that Cuomo and Statehouse lawmakers had, unsurprisingly, finalized a version of the state’s budget that did not include a sports-betting expansion.
In effect, Cuomo decided not to shore up any of the state’s $7 billion deficit with new forms of revenue, noted the New York Daily News.
That means sports betting being OK’d for mobile devices is unlikely to materialize before 2021. The impact of that decision will undoubtedly depend on the role sports play this year and whether sporting events return in any major, tangible way.
That doesn’t mean the decision hasn’t miffed gambling proponents.
“I’m not giving up the fight,” leading mobile betting advocate State Sen. Joseph Addabbo told the Daily News. Addabbo had also hoped to see the expansion of casinos to areas downstate and out of the update arena they are currently relegated. Tax revenue from that and expanded sports betting would have been slated for education spending.
“New York calls itself ‘excelsior’ (‘ever upward’ in Latin); well in sports betting we are clearly not excelsior.”
A missed opportunity during a time of financial need?
Addabbo and other lawmakers had determined gambling expansions could lead to a $1.5 billion in revenue for New York in the 2020-2021 fiscal year, according to Legal Sports Report.
Addabbo was credited by multiple media outlets as saying Cuomo’s decision to not embrace sports-gambling growth was irresponsible and a missed opportunity at digging out of a financial hole likely to only get deeper following the COVID-19 pandemic.
He now expects New York to hold a fall legislative session to deal with those fiscal ramifications, at which time online, or mobile, sports betting could be reconsidered. If approved, there would likely be a timeline of up to six month to start mobile betting.
Cuomo’s opposition has included constitution-based concerns, apprehensions about the morality of mobile betting, and to-date paltry returns on sports wagering in New York, according to reports.
Other states reap benefits of mobile betting
Sports Illustrated reported this week that in 2019 alone New Jersey’s mobile sportsbooks received $4.5 billion worth of bets, or nearly 90 percent of sports betting wagers placed in the state.
Gaming operators welcomed $300 million in revenue; it resulted, more importantly, in $36 million in taxes for New Jersey, noted SI.
In comparison, New York tallied just $9.7 million in revenue from sports betting in the latter half of 2019 through January. New Jersey saw $243.3 million in revenue during the same time period, according to data from Legal Sports Report.
New Jersey isn’t alone in seeing the benefits of mobile betting.
The Indianapolis Star – which called mobile wagering “the platform of choice” in the Hoosier state – reported that gamblers bet $436 million in the final four months of 2019. Each month saw a notable increase in wagers, from $35.2 million in September up to $161.8 million worth of wagers in December.
“You can download an app and bet on a college football game after two beers,” Ball State University economics professor Michael Hicks, a leading economist in the state, was quoted as saying.
“Who wouldn’t do that?”
Well, New Yorkers may want to drink a couple beers and bet on sports – but for now they’ve got no sports. And for the foreseeable future they won’t have mobile betting.