Save Room In Christmas Stockings For New York Online Sports Betting?

Written By Matthew Kredell on December 9, 2020

New York may get an unexpected Christmas gift this year — online sports betting.

Assemblyman Gary Pretlow told PlayNY that he had a call Tuesday that solidified a commitment from Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie to include mobile sports betting in a revenue bill.

The question is if New York will move on a revenue bill in the limited time remaining this calendar year. With a federal coronavirus stimulus bill coming together, odds are improving that they will.

“I think Congress will pass the stimulus bill within a week, which is setting it up for New York to do something with the revenue bill this year,” Pretlow said.

“All I know is we will do a revenue bill at some point in time and it will include mobile sports betting.”

Commitment is an act, not a word

Pretlow told PlayNY in August that he had a commitment from Heastie to include online sports betting in a revenue bill.

That marked significant progress for the effort. In April, Heastie blocked the inclusion of sports betting in the Assembly budget proposal.

Last year, an online sports betting bill passed through the Senate, but Heastie didn’t put it up for a vote in the Assembly. If he had, Pretlow believed it had the votes to pass.

Heastie and Gov. Andrew Cuomo previously stated concerns over whether a 2013 constitutional amendment that legalized New York casinos and permitted them to have sports betting extended to online.

Pretlow planned to introduce a constitutional amendment bill to start that long process before the commitment from Heastie dissuaded him.

How NY online sports betting could happen in 2020

Pretlow asserted that a revenue bill could come together quickly in New York. He confirmed there have been top-level discussions in each chamber on what to include.

Here are the steps forward for New York to do a revenue bill this year:

  • Congress passes, and the President signs, a coronavirus stimulus package that doesn’t take care of all New York’s revenue needs.
  • Cuomo proposes a revenue bill to address the shortfall.
  • Both legislative chambers propose additional revenue, including from online sports betting, to fund more spending.
  • Cuomo recognizes the will of the legislature, which now has a veto-proof supermajority, and doesn’t fight the inclusion.

“It can all come together very quickly,” Pretlow said. “I’m pretty sure the governor and Department of Budget already have a bill put together with what they need. Then we just have to fill in the blanks. It can happen within a week.”

Why New York could rush revenue bill before year’s end

New York doesn’t need to address the revenue shortfall until March 31, the end of the fiscal year.

However, Pretlow noted that there is possible urgency to complete the revenue bill before the end of the calendar year.

If the revenue bill includes any tax increase, that increase can go into effect Jan. 1 if passed this month. If the state waits until the new year to complete a revenue bill, the tax wouldn’t take effect until 2022. That would defeat the purpose of needing the revenue to address the shortfall now.

“We don’t know what we need yet and we don’t want to raise taxes unnecessarily,” Pretlow said.

What will NY online sports betting look like?

Pretlow said he is looking to use the same mobile sports betting language passed by the Senate last year. The only change he wants is to increase skins from one to two, creating an additional $84 million in licensing fees.

Details of the bill as passed by the Senate include:

  • Authorize online sports betting through New York casinos
  • Set a $12 million initial licensing fee
  • Add a 12% tax on online sports betting
  • Provide a 0.2% royalty fee on all wagers to the professional sports leagues on which the bets were placed
  • Starting 20 months after the effective date of the law, stadiums, and arenas with a capacity of more than 15,000 seats may partner with New York casinos to have sports betting kiosks connected back to the casino via the internet

Pretlow indicated that there has been no serious consideration given to expediting casino licenses for downstate New York in the revenue bill.

“As of right now, it doesn’t look good,” Pretlow said about issuing full casino licenses in the New York City area. “If it turns out we need an extra billion dollars, it has legs. All of this is fluid.”

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Matthew Kredell Avatar
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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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