New Sports Betting Legislation Would Allow Up To 14 Online Sportsbooks In New York

Posted on January 8, 2021 - Last Updated on January 21, 2021

On Thursday, New York lawmakers proposed new online sports betting legislation for their colleagues to consider in 2021.

Jointly filed bills by Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. and Assemblyman Gary Pretlow follow earlier iterations of similar legislation. This time, however, the proposals identify two online skins per licensee rather than just one.

With four commercial casinos and three casino-operating tribes in the state, that means as many as 14 online sportsbooks could operate in New York should their bills become law.

However, such a suggestion sharply contrasts with the type of online sports betting that Gov. Andrew Cuomo suggested he would support earlier this week.

Details of latest New York sports betting legislation

Aside from the new two-skins-per-licensee item, the bills — S 1183 and A 1257 — resemble much of what Addabbo and Pretlow put forth before in earlier sessions.

  • An up-front, one-time $12 million fee mobile sportsbook operators must pay within 30 days of license issuance
  • A 12% tax on sports wagering gross revenue
  • Use of official league data required for in-play betting, including a 0.2% royalty fee to sports leagues
  • Professional sports stadiums and off-track betting sites with at least 15,000 seats can partner with casinos to host betting kiosks

The legislation arrives just two days after Gov. Cuomo announced he was in favor of legalizing online sports betting in the state, a reversal from his earlier stance.

However, Addabbo and Pretlow’s vision for online sports betting likely does not satisfy what Cuomo has in mind.

Cuomo envisions single operator, not several

On Tuesday, Cuomo announced he would recommend legalizing online wagering in his upcoming budget proposal.

The governor had previously opposed the idea entirely. Arguing that legalizing sports betting in New York would require a constitutional amendment, Cuomo made clear his intention to veto any bills seeking to legalize it otherwise.

However, the significant economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the attractiveness of online sports betting as a possible revenue source. Indeed, speculation along those lines arose last summer amid the state’s significant budgetary shortfall.

Unlike Addabbo and Pretlow, Cuomo favors a model by which the New York State Gaming Commission would select a single operator to provide online sports betting in the state. In other words, Cuomo’s proposal opposes allowing the casinos individually to obtain licenses to offer online sports betting.

In a Wednesday press conference, Cuomo further clarified his position.

“Many states have done sports betting but they basically allow casinos to run their own gambling operations. That makes a lot of money for casinos but it makes minimal money for the state.”

Such a centralized system would mimic that of the state lottery, Cuomo said, “where the state gets all the revenues.”

Lawmakers: Casinos need mobile sports betting to survive

Addabbo and Pretlow were not encouraged by Cuomo’s proposal. In particular, they worry that New York casinos may not be able to sustain themselves following the difficulties of the past year.

According to Addabbo, “if we do mobile sports betting and don’t include them, they’re done.”

A summary of the jointly-filed legislation from Addabbo and Pretlow indicates the state could realize approximately $79 million in annual revenue according to their model.

Cuomo’s budget director, Robert Mujica, has suggested standard online sports betting models would provide around $50 million per year for the state.

Meanwhile, Mujica also opined that a single-operator system such as Cuomo recommends could bring as much as $500 million per year. On the surface that would seem an optimistic projection, especially to start.

In any case, one week into 2021, online sports betting is firmly on the table in New York. It remains to be seen if competing visions for it can be reconciled enough for it to come to fruition.

Photo by AP / Justin Edmonds
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