Why One Casino Owner Thinks NY Legalizes Online Sports Betting In 2020

Written By Matthew Kredell on August 27, 2020

One New York casino owner is on board with the optimism that New York includes online sports betting in the coming revenue bill.

Jeff Gural, owner of Tioga Downs Casino, believes that New York will approve mobile sports betting and expedite downstate casinos this year.

Earlier this month, Assemblyman Gary Pretlow told PlayNY that he had a commitment to include online sports wagering in the revenue bill. He added that he didn’t expect activating the downstate casino licenses to make the bill.

Sen. Joseph Addabbo Jr. told PlayNY that he thought mobile sports betting is the easier lift, but he would continue advocating for both.

Gural spoke to PlayNY about why he thinks online sports betting and downstate casino licenses will be approved this year, why believes an integrity fee won’t make the final bill, and of his hopes for the coming New York gaming market analysis report.

Bringing online sports betting to New York

PlayNY: Chairman Pretlow said he has a commitment from Assembly leadership to include online sports betting in the revenue bill. Is this really going to happen?

Gural: I think so. The state is desperate for revenue. I think once they realize how little they’re getting in federal money, they’ll sit down and work out the revenue package with sports betting. I think we’ll see online sports betting in New York in the near future, and I think you’ll see the downstate license process start as well. It’s common sense.

PlayNY: Gov. Andrew Cuomo has stood against online sports betting and the downstate casino licenses to this point. What makes you think he will change his mind now?

Gural: He’s not a fan of gambling, I understand that, but he has no choice. His back is against the wall. The state needs money and what’s the logic in having people drive to New Jersey or bet illegally when we can regulate it and tax it? Expediting the downstate casinos is a low-hanging fruit. These licenses are worth at least $500 million apiece. That’s a lot of money to the state and the existing casinos want to see it happen.

PlayNY: Wow, you’re pretty confident that New York can actually get this done. How could this still go wrong?

Gural: My biggest fear is nothing happens in Washington or they do some partial bill and it doesn’t address the needs of the state. Then New York is stuck and has to decide on revenue before knowing what it’s getting from the feds.

More on expediting downstate casino licenses

PlayNY: What could the existing NY casinos get out of moving up the date for casinos around New York City?

Gural: We want to trade it for a lower tax rate because the tax rate we have doesn’t work. We’re competing with tribal casinos that pay no taxes on tables games and 25% on slots. At Tioga, we pay 37% on slots but also have to pay purses to horsemen and that’s another 7% to 8%. So we’re at a complete disadvantage to our competition. Our goal is to waive the seven-year requirement in exchange for a 25% tax on slots – we’ll still pay 10% on table games – and then the state can benefit from licenses downstate.

PlayNY: Do you think a company would still pay $500 million for a downstate casinos license during the pandemic?

Gural: Yes, because casinos are not going to be able to open until the middle of next year and, by then, there’s an expectation that COVID is behind us. I think the future is very cloudy for places like Las Vegas and Atlantic City that rely on conventions and tourists. Casinos that rely on locals within a 50-mile radius are a safe bet.

New York gaming study could play an impactful role

PlayNY: What are your hopes for the New York gaming study that’s expected to be completed soon?

Gural: I would imagine in that report it’s going to say the state should give out the downstate licenses and allow online sports betting, because otherwise they should throw that report in the garbage.

PlayNY: What interaction did you have with Spectrum Gaming as it conducted the study?

Gural: We had a meeting with them, representatives of all four casinos in a room, and they asked some questions. Then they required additional information, so we gave them whatever they asked for.

Casino owner opposes integrity fee for leagues

PlayNY: Do you agree with New York being the first state to give professional sports leagues a double dip of an integrity fee plus a mandate for official league data?

Gural: No, and I don’t think that will happen. I think, under the circumstances, the state will take that money back for themselves. I think that the state will look to get as much revenue back as they can and don’t think they’ll be looking to pay the leagues anything.

PlayNY: What about requiring operators to use official league data for in-play wagers?

Gural: Leagues and teams are working out sponsorship deals with all these sports betting companies, and that should be enough. I see DraftKings whenever I watch a Mets game. They don’t have to take money out of taxpayers’ pockets in New York. They can deal directly with the sports betting companies and make their own marketing deals.

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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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