Diminishing Returns At New York Sportsbooks Continue Their Downward Spiral

Posted on December 21, 2019 - Last Updated on January 15, 2020

While less populous states without as many in-state betting options see their legal sports wagering industries grow, November sports betting revenue for the Empire State is a significant outlier. For the second consecutive month, action and win both shrank.

Revenue from the state’s four Upstate New York legal sportsbooks was just $1.3 million last month, a drop of about 41.7% from the previous month. October’s win total was down from September’s as well.

Please note that NYSGC figures do not include data from the state’s tribal casinos, three of which currently offer sports betting.

More decline for sports betting revenue in New York

The decline wasn’t equal between the four commercial casino sportsbooks in terms of percentage, but all four saw a downturn. A breakdown by facility goes as follows:

CasinoNovember revenueOctober revenueChange
del Lago$230,092$572,410-59.9%
Resorts World Catskills$467,356$506,380-7.8%
Rivers$549,230$1,001,741-45.2%
Tioga Downs$61,618$161,834-62%

New York’s monthly revenue reports don’t show handle at any of the legal books, so it’s impossible to tell how much of the sharp decline was due to bettors simply faring better. A drop of nearly 50% overall suggests that the four books saw far less action, however.

With two consecutive months of revenue decline, the second being much more serious, it’s safe to say that September’s revenue was vastly inflated. The beginning of the college football and NFL seasons along with the newness of legal betting in the Empire State were mostly responsible for that inflation.

That short honeymoon for New York’s four upstate casinos has ended. November’s numbers are probably a more accurate representation of the current market.

The parameters of that market will change soon. That will include new competition for casinos like Rivers.

Three new retail sportsbooks and a study about even more

The Seneca tribe plans to open sportsbooks at its three New York casinos soon. That could enhance the overall revenue for sports betting in the state.

It could also cut into the numbers at certain other casinos, however. Until those new books open, the current operators enjoy the exclusive ability to offer legal wagering in New York.

Bettors who live in places like Buffalo won’t have to travel to places like Schenectady anymore, for example. Future revenue reports will show whether more retail options in the state means more action or just spreads the current action around.

That does nothing to address the elephant in the room, though. The lack of online sports betting will continue to be an issue until it isn’t.

That’s one area a state-commissioned study will research. It’s hard to estimate how many New Yorkers are crossing state lines to place mobile bets right now.

It’s also impossible to determine how many Empire Staters are simply using bookies or offshore sites. The number is likely significant, however, and is reflected in the disappointing revenue figures so far in New York.

Why sports betting in NY could stay stagnant for a while

Even if the study concludes it’s necessary to legalize mobile betting for the Empire State to compete, doing so could be a challenge. It might require amending the state constitution, which would take years.

There is only one solution to that problem. No matter how many brick-and-mortar books open in New York, the lack of online options will stunt the growth potential of the industry.

Despite New York’s population and prominent place in North American sports, its sports betting revenue doesn’t share that enormity. Until the state makes serious changes, it likely never will.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Kansas City, Mo. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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