Rivers Casino Throws Weight Behind Legal Challenge To DFS In New York

Written By Derek Helling on July 30, 2019 - Last Updated on March 22, 2022
New York DFS lawsuit

Editor’s Note: On March 22, 2022, DFS games were deemed legal in New York by the NY Court of Appeals. Read on for more details here.

For New York residents who have played NY daily fantasy sports for years, the stakes just got higher. A Rivers Casino lawsuit brief was filed to complicate matters.

The result of the lawsuit could put the brakes on DFS in the Empire State and have a ripple effect on NY sports betting, as well. The fact that Rivers Casino has joined the fray makes it more serious.

Why the Rivers Casino lawsuit brief was filed

White v. Cuomo was originally filed shortly after the state enacted its Interactive Fantasy Sports law late in 2016. The lawsuit argued that the law violated the state’s constitution.

The state was denied its petition for dismissal of the suit, and the trial court found for the plaintiffs. The state immediately appealed last November.

DraftKings and FanDuel, the two largest DFS operators in the state, both filed briefs in support of the state. In turn, Rivers Casino did the same in support of the plaintiffs last week.

Rivers Casino has two main arguments in its brief for why the appellate court should uphold the original ruling.

What Rivers Casino is arguing in its brief

Rivers Casino makes two assertions in its brief. The first could be interpreted as “sour grapes” while the other gets at the main issue at stake.

Before it could begin operating in NY, Rivers and other casinos waited for a constitutional amendment. They are arguing that DFS operators should have to follow the same protocol.

How the court defines gambling will determine whether that happens. Rivers’ brief argues that playing DFS is gambling. So far, the courts have agreed.

What could happen if the lawsuit succeeds

If the courts continue to agree with the plaintiffs and the state exhausts its appeals, NY residents will no longer be able to play DFS legally.

Restoring the ability of DraftKings and FanDuel to accept entries from NY residents would require the state’s constitution to be amended. That process would take years.

Rivers could be a major beneficiary in that scenario. The dollars being deposited for entries on DraftKings and FanDuel could be the casino’s instead.

It’s possible DFS players would instead look to sports betting in New York to get their “fixes.” Currently, casinos like Rivers have a monopoly on that in the state.

Online sports betting remains illegal in NY. A residual effect could be a delay in a change in that situation as well.

How White v. Cuomo could delay online sports betting

One of the primary reasons the New York Legislature failed to pass a bill on online sports betting is NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s concerns about constitutionality.

If the suit is ultimately successful in forcing an amendment on DFS, it will likely strengthen Cuomo’s resolve that online sports betting requires the same treatment. There is a slight silver lining, however.

The NY Legislature could kill two birds with one stone. An amendment that authorizes both DFS and online sports betting could be proposed. Such an amendment would cement the legality of both activities.

For now, the state is still holding out hope that the appeals court will reverse the lower court’s decision. The case may end up before the NY Supreme Court yet. DFS in NY goes on according to the 2016 law as long as the matter is being litigated.

If Rivers has its way, its competition for sports gambling dollars will be reduced. It’s now worth watching whether other casinos in NY will follow Rivers’ example and file briefs on the plaintiff’s behalf as well.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a lead writer for PlayUSA and the manager of BetHer. 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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