Assembly Considering Legislation To Legalize Super Bowl Squares-Style Games As NY Sports Betting Grows

Written By Hannah Vanbiber on June 26, 2023
new york assembly chamber meeting in albany

New York Assemblymember Jarett Gandolfo introduced two bills that would legalize Super Bowl Squares pools at bars and restaurants in New York State. The change in law requires an amendment to the state constitution, which one of the bills would accomplish if passed.

Super Bowl Squares is a popular casual betting game most often played among office pools, families and friends. Many local bars and restaurants have run squares pools during the Super Bowl, even though it’s not strictly legal despite the proliferation of legal online NY sports betting.

These bills would protect that practice.

The bills don’t expect to pass in the current legislative year, but Gandolfo anticipates forcing a vote next year.

“I don’t expect a vote this year,” Gandolfo told Daniel Wallach, a legal analyst for The Athletic. “Next year, I am considering using an assembly procedure which can force a vote in the committee.”

What’s in the Super Bowl Squares bills?

Gandolfo’s proposed legislation contains to parts that work in tandem.

The first, Bill A6890, requires passage to pave the way for legalizing pool-selling, which the state constitution currently bans. The bill proposes a constitutional amendment that would allow “the legislature to authorize pool-selling without profit.”

Lawmakers referred this bill to the judiciary on May 26.

The second, Bill A6880, legalizes pool-selling. The official language states that it would allow “bars and restaurants to organize and manage sports squares pools, provided that they do not take any profit from such pools.”

The bill currently sits in the Assembly’s Racing and Wagering Committee.

Why does the state need these bills?

Historically, New York bars and restaurants offer squares pools as a way to draw customers during the Super Bowl.

“Bars have been running pools like this for years while not taking any cut of the pooled prize money,” said Gandolfo. “Instead, it was a mechanism for them to draw in customers to check their numbers or make their pick and maybe grab a drink or a quick bite to eat. While it wasn’t technically legal, it was largely unenforced.”

After New York launched legal sports betting in January 2022, the NYS Liquor Authority started cracking down on bars and restaurants that offered Squares pools.

“After the legalization of sports betting in NY, bars and restaurants were informed that the State Liquor Authority would now be cracking down on this practice,” Gandolfo said. “Many business owners are upset by this, as it is taking away a tool they have used to help drive extra business during the slower winter months.”

Does pool-selling conflict with NY sports betting?

With the alleged crackdown by the NYS Liquor Authority, sports fans might wonder if a real conflict exists between casual pools and sports betting.

Gandolfo thinks not.

“New York State brought in over $1 billion in sports betting revenue through the first year,” Gandolfo told Wallach. “Football pools at local bars are not a threat to this revenue stream. In my opinion, the practice should be formally legalized – it’s harmless.”

Gandolfo also pointed out that the state would not need legislation if it simply decided to stop enforcing the ban on pool-selling.

Photo by Hans Pennink / AP Photo
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Hannah Vanbiber

Hannah Vanbiber is a contributing writer for PlayNY after starting her journalism career in Chattanooga, Tennessee. From covering local sports, entertainment and business in East Tennessee, Hannah now covers legal gambling for New York as well as covering women's sports and sports betting in the New York metropolitan area.

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