It’s Up For Debate Just How Prepared NY Is For Sports Betting

Written By Jessica Welman on December 17, 2017 - Last Updated on November 30, 2022
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[toc]Turns out New York may not be quite as prepared as some people think. In fact, there is quite a bit of debate regarding whether or not the Empire State will be able to start accepting sports wagers should the U.S. Supreme Court move to overturn the Professioal and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) next year.

The good news is state lawmakers do have some time to try and make sure the state is prepared. A ruling in the Supreme Court will not arrive until early spring 2018.

Pretlow and Bonacic say the state is all set to bet

Two lawmakers believe the state is ready to take bets as soon as PASPA is potentially overturned. Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow and Sen. John Bonacic both say the state has a framework in place already.

That is true, for the most part. When Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the constitutional amendment allowing for new commercial upstate New York casinos, it included language for those properties to offer sports betting if the federal law ever changes.

The author of that language? Noe other than Pretlow himself. He told City & State New York things are fine as is.

“It’s already in the (state) constitution, and enabling legislation has already been written, and everything is set up. We’re ready to go,” he explained.

Bonacic, who helped write the amendment, unsurprisingly agrees.

“When we did that constitutional amendment, we envisioned that in the event that the sports ban was eliminated federally that they could (start betting on sports) immediately,” he said. “And you know, (New) Jersey is all geared up and Pennsylvania is all geared up, and to a certain extent, we’ve got to keep up.”

In advance of neighbor New Jersey’s oral arguments in Washington D.C., Bonacic started making the rounds stumping for sports betting in the state. To him, the new revenue stream could help address the massive revenue shortfalls of the three operational upstate commercial casinos.

Those upstate casinos are currently the only venues in the state with language in the state constitution allowing sports wagering in NY beyond horse racing. Therein lies the problem.

Legal expert says NY not as covered as it seems

While Bonacik and Pretlow are confident, another legal expert is not as sure. City & State New York spoke with New York attorney Karl Sleight, who specializes in gaming law for his firm, Harris Beach.

His first problem is that it is tough to guarantee anything until the Supreme Court issues an opinion. Depending on the grounds of the ruling, New York’s constitution might need additional language and amendments to get in the legal clear.

Another issue Sleight alludes to is that the ruling has room to be a partial-repeal of PASPA. That is a very possible outcome. Moreover, should it happen, legal language in New York and other state constitutions might be insufficient as is.

Racinos, tribes may have something to say about sports betting

Currently, the upstate commercial casinos are the only facilities addressed in the constitution’s sports betting language. This could result in major backlash from a couple of groups who would want a piece of the action too.

Namely racetracks, racinos, and tribes with tribal casinos. In order for any of these groups to take part in betting, a change in legal language is absolutely necessary.

The question is how much of a legal fuss these groups will raise if New York opens up the sports betting market exclusively to the four upstate casinos.

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Jessica Welman

Jessica Welman is a longtime member of the poker media. She has worked as a tournament reporter for the World Poker Tour, co-hosted a podcast for Poker Road, and served as the Managing Editor for A graduate of the University of Southern California and Indiana University, Welman is not only a writer but also a producer. She has been involved for livestreams for the WSOP and WPT and worked as a consultant on many other poker productions. She can be found on Twitter @jesswelman.

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