While Cuomo Focuses On Scandals, Lawmakers Focus On Sports Betting Push

Written By Matthew Kredell on March 9, 2021

It’s been two months since New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo first spoke of his preference to run mobile sports betting not through casinos but through the state.

Two weeks later, he included online New York sports wagering language and revenue in the executive budget. Since then, mobile sports betting murmurs have been very quiet in the Empire State.

You might have wondered what progress has been made behind the scenes since the governor laid out  his plan.

The answer is none. However, things are about to heat up in the New York winter.

Online sports betting negotiations will intensify following the release of the one-house budgets on March 15.

What to expect from New York budget process

March is budget month in New York. Currently, each legislative chamber is finalizing its own set of spending and revenue recommendations.

Sen. Joseph Addabbo Jr. tells PlayNY that the Senate budget proposal will include the sports betting expansion language from his bill S 1183.

“We’re going to go with our version, amended in January. It’s a foundation on which we can grow and go forward in terms of negotiation. I would be very comfortable and confident if that language is implemented and mobile sports betting starts by the beginning of the NFL season in September.”

Assemblyman Gary Pretlow also confirmed that his intention is for the Assembly to include the language from his companion bill A 1257. While the Senate put mobile sports wagering in its budget the past two years, the Assembly hasn’t previously followed suit.

How mobile sports betting negotiations will unfold

Once the Senate and Assembly release their budget proposals, the real negotiations to decide the direction of New York sports betting begin.

The executive budget mentions a state-run model in which the New York State Gaming Commission licenses one or more online sports betting platforms in a competitive bidding process.

Lawmakers want a more inclusive approach in which commercial casinos and gaming tribes may each offer two mobile sports betting apps. Racetracksoff-track betting parlors, video lottery terminal facilities and professional sports stadiums also can participate through partnerships with casinos.

Addabbo explained why he believes the legislative model is best for New York:

“My concern is what’s the best model to have short-term profit and long-term market sustainability for the state, industry and consumer. I’d be very concerned on a model based on volume if that model can’t handle the consumers of New York and growth going forward. Bettors look at a variety of products based on which has the best odds, accessible app and reliability. If you don’t provide them an option they like, they’ll go back to Jersey, or go back to doing it illegally, and your model fails.”

He argued that Cuomo pushed for the commercial casinos in 2013 to provide an economic boost for upstate New York. Now is the chance to do it again.

“Let’s reinvest in these casinos from upstate by allowing them to have mobile sports betting,” Addabbo said. “We have an opportunity to utilize all these casinos, tribes, racetracks, OTBs, VLTs and stadiums in New York, limiting any kind of legal challenge by doing it that way.”

Cuomo’s personal issues may play a role

Five women have made allegations of inappropriate conduct against Cuomo. While New York works on a budget, it appears the governor will be fighting for his political life.

“I’m hoping we remain focused on the budget because people’s livelihoods depend on this budget,” Addabbo said. “No matter what else is going on in the governor’s world, we need to remain focused and hit the April 1 deadline with a balanced budget.”

While the governor is distracted, it could provide an opportunity for advocates of a competitive online sports betting market. Since the governor’s budget doesn’t contain a full-fledged mobile sports betting plan, it could be easier for him to accept the legislative proposal and focus on more pressing issues.

“The fact that the governor’s proposal doesn’t include a lot of details is promising for us, for advocates of a competitive model,” Addabbo said. “It allows us to insert our model into those blanks.”

The executive budget includes $49 million from online sports betting. If the sides don’t include mobile sports wagering, they’ll have to find that revenue elsewhere or make cuts to balance the budget. But it will all have to come together in about two weeks.

“I am more optimistic now that we are going to authorize mobile sports betting than I’ve ever been,” Addabbo said. “That ball is as close to the goal line as it’s ever been. We just have to work out the details, and I’m confident we’ll do that.”

Photo by Dreamstime
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Matthew Kredell

Matthew Kredell reports on efforts to legalize sports wagering and online casino gaming around the country. He covered the multi-year effort to legalize online sports betting in New York from the beginning. He talks to state lawmakers, lobbyists and industry representatives to get the scoop on new gambling developments in the Empire State and was at the forefront when the state budget included the authorization of legal online sports betting in 2021. Matthew has covered the legal gambling industry since 2007, getting into regulated sports betting three years later. An alum of USC, Matthew began his career as a sportswriter at the Los Angeles Daily News. He has also contributed to publications that include Playboy, Men’s Journal and ESPN.

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