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NY Sports Betting Is Hot Topic Of Debate At Saratoga Conference

Luminaries from the New York government and the regulated gambling industry gathered for a one-day conference in Saratoga Springs last week.

On Tuesday, the Albany Law School presented the 18th Annual Saratoga Institute on Equine, Racing & Gaming Law at The Saratoga Hilton. The list of speakers included key participants from all sides of the NY sports betting discussion.

About half of the day was dedicated to sports betting, but the fixed-odds overtone extended to horse racing panels, too.

Another non-update in NY sports betting

Most of the pieces are in place for sports betting in New York, but government officials have yet to lock stride on implementation.

The ball is currently in the hands of the NYS Gaming Commission, which has the green light to draft regulations. Lawmakers and voters approved the activity for the four commercial NY casinos way back in 2013.

Following the US Supreme Court ruling in May, director Ron Ochrym said the commission was moving forward with regulations under the existing law. A draft of those regulations would be ready “in the near term.”

Almost three months later, we’re still waiting to see them. The commission has repeatedly declined requests from PlayNY for an updated timeline.

The root of the delay isn’t exactly clear, though there’s some indication that Gov. Andrew Cuomo is holding back the reins. Ochrym also said his staff is working to determine, among other things, whether or not operators should compensate sports leagues for booking wagers.

During the conference, Commissioner Peter Moschetti provided the only real update. Moschetti indicated that he and his colleagues are still considering all components of the 2018 sports betting bills, including the so-called integrity fee.

Pitching for league compensation

It sounds like the leagues still have their hands in New York’s cookie jar.

NBA Assistant General Counsel Dan Spillane was among the panelists in Saratoga, speaking before a familiar audience. Spillane has made several trips to Albany this year to pitch for league influence on legislation.

That lobbying tour is ongoing, and Spillane used the conference as an opportunity to regurgitate his primary talking points. The leagues spend billions of dollars providing sports entertainment, he argues, and should be viewed as partners rather than adversaries in sports betting.

No transcripts are available, so we only have bits and pieces to work with. According to Reuters, Spillane projected that the annual fees from NY would amount to $7 million for the NBA. That money, he said, could help expand the league’s salary cap. Both the Knicks and the Nets play their home games in New York City.

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Another side of the argument

Sports law attorney Dan Wallach is one of the most widely cited voices in sports betting, and he underpinned Spillane’s arguments. Using the federal horse racing act as a guideline, Wallach argued that leagues have good precedent for collecting fees from sports betting operators.

“I think there is a solid legal foundation for what the leagues are asking for,” Wallach said, according to the Daily Racing Form.

Unlike their counterparts in other states, New York lawmakers have turned a listening ear to these league requests. The two NY sports betting bills that made the most progress both included a “royalty fee” amounting to one fifth of one percent of all wagers. Those laws did not pass, but regulators are evidently looking to glean from their proposed language.

To date, no state with legal sports betting has mandated league fees in any legislation.

State officials not expecting much

Sen. John Bonacic is the chair of his chamber’s gaming committee, making him one of the keyholders for sports betting legislation. Bonacic was at the very tip of the discussion this year, and he understands the landscape as it relates to New York.

Here’s one of his comments from the conference pulled by the Times Union:

“When the Gaming Commission comes out with regulations, I really think you’re not going to see a heck of a lot of revenues from sports betting because it will force people to go to the lounge of the four casinos.”

His words highlight the realities of implementation.

The only form of sports betting permitted under existing NY law is on-site sports betting. That seems to be written in black and white, but regulators’ previous comments cast some doubt. Ochrym has cited questions about mobile wagering as one of the items holding up regulatory progress.

New York’s four commercial casinos are, indeed, not places people gather in large numbers. Del Lago has traffic issues that are especially acute, having asked for state assistance on multiple occasions through its first 18 months of operation. Forcing people to go to the casinos just isn’t working out very well so far.

A new law will likely be required to authorize mobile wagering and meet Bonacic’s projection of $500 million in annual tax revenue from NY sports betting.

Eric Ramsey

About

Eric is a reporter and writer covering the NY gambling industry, online poker, sports betting regulation, and DFS. He comes from a poker background, formerly on staff at PokerNews and the World Poker Tour.