Lobbying Records Reveal Sports Betting Spend From New York Teams and Leagues

Posted By Mike Mazzeo on August 12, 2021

The future of legalized mobile sports betting in New York is now in the hands of the NYS Gaming Commission. Final bids were due Monday, and the NYSGC now has until Dec. 6 to choose winners and losers.

Granted, New York’s professional sports teams had already been putting in plenty of work behind the scenes. Earlier this week, for example, one source told PlayNY that “the Nets and Knicks have been active in Albany.”

Public data from the Joint Commission on Public Ethics reveals the extent of that activity, which adds up to more than $200,000.

Local teams make a big lobbying push in NY

New York’s professional sports teams have made no secret of their desire to bring legalized sports betting to stadiums and arenas across the state.

Yankees president Randy Levine, for instance, wrote an editorial for Empire Report in December 2020 pushing for mobile sports betting as a way to cut into NYC’s budget crisis caused by the pandemic.

To that end, several teams and the venues that host them have made lobbying efforts this year tied to gaming issues:

  • Madison Square Garden (Knicks, Rangers) has been working with Cozen O’Connor Public Strategies to lobby for mobile wagering sports betting legislation. Compensation includes payments of $20,000 from May-June 2021 and $5,000 from March-April.
  • The Nets have been working with the Parkside Group, including compensation of $7,500 monthly in April and May 2021, to lobby on the state bill regarding sports betting.
  • The Yankees have been working with Brown & Weinraub, including compensation of $10,000 from May-June 2021 and $5,000 from March-April 2021, to lobby on gaming. It’s unclear what issues they are targeting with this particular action, as the records don’t clearly indicate sports betting.
  • Pegula Sports and Entertainment (Bills, Sabres) has been working with Ostroff Associates, Inc., including compensation of $7,500 monthly, to lobby on the state bill regarding sports wagering. While the corporation’s registration expressly includes sports betting, its actual lobbying efforts in 2021 are less specific.

The Yankees, Bills and Sabres are supporting the NY mobile sports betting bid by FanDuel, DraftKings and BetMGM, among others. The Nets are supporting a competing bid from Fanatics and Penn National.

Several NY teams have expressed a desire to add sportsbooks/lounges to increase fan engagement and revenue during home games.

Leagues lobby at the highest levels

Sports leagues have lobbied hard for legalized NY online sports betting as well. And records indicate that they seem to have more access to people like NY Director of Budget Robert Mujica and members of Senate leadership that might be harder to lobby directly.

Here’s a look at the payments by MLB, NBA and the PGA Tour this year:

Table: NY sports betting lobbying

The three leagues have paid more than $125,000 to lobby New York lawmakers on issues related to sports betting in 2021 alone.

MLB and the NBA, both of which are headquartered in the state, share a roster as they jointly work to get the items on their wish list included in the final policy. The extra push in the most recent bi-monthly period corresponds with the request for proposals and rulemaking process that is now underway.

The NFL also retains one registered lobbying firm in the state.

Eric Ramsey contributed to this report.

Photo by Colin E. Braley / The Associated Press
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Mike Mazzeo

Mike Mazzeo has covered New York sports since 2010, previously working as a beat writer and columnist for ESPN (Nets), Yahoo Sports (NBA/MLB) and the New York Daily News (Yankees). His work has also been published in the New York Times, New York Post, Forbes and The Ringer.

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