NY Online Sports Betting Should Make Budget, But Bettors May Not Like The End Result

Posted By Matthew Kredell on March 31, 2021

Is a bad online sports betting model better than no online sports betting? The New York legislators fighting for a more inclusive online sports betting plan think so.

Assemblyman Gary Pretlow tells PlayNY that mobile sports betting will make the state budget “in some form.” But he has resolved that form will be the governor’s limited state-run model.

“We’re still negotiating but the governor is sticking hard to his ridiculous plan,” Pretlow said. “We’re trying to get as much of our proposal in the budget as possible, but it’s his budget.”

Sen. Joseph Addabbo tells Play NY he expects 60% of the sports betting language in the budget to be from the legislative model. However, the model will be the one proposed by the governor.

Because the governor’s proposal lacked detail, it leaves plenty of room for legislative language to fill in the blanks.

“We’re going to put in language on the integrity monitoring of sports, certain timeframes, new addiction funding, education funding,” Addabbo said. “Everything we worked on in our bills short of the model should be in the budget language.”

Number of sportsbook operators is sticking point

Under Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan, the state Gaming Commission would issue a request for proposals to select and license one or more platform providers via a competitive bidding process.

Addabbo says the governor’s team has mentioned one licensee with three skins.

“He’s sticking with the New Hampshire model that he thinks will be more profitable to the state,” Pretlow said. “I’m trying to get more skins.”

Addabbo contended that a state the size of New York, with 19 million people, needs at least five or six online sports betting platforms.

“If you don’t have enough skins, it’s not going to work. There’s no competitive nature, no reason to give better odds. We’re asking New Yorker who have been betting in New Jersey, in Pennsylvania or the illegal market to do it in their own state and stay with us. If it’s not a good product, they’ll go right back to where they were comfortable betting.”

Trial run for Cuomo’s online sports wagering proposal

Pretlow and Addabbo want to get mobile sports betting going in any form. But they see this as a trial run for the governor’s plan.

Addabbo says that if the governor’s model doesn’t prove successful by the Super Bowl, that will give lawmakers ammunition to make a change.

“If we don’t do tremendous, knock-it-out-of-the-ballpark numbers by the Super Bowl, then we have a premise to say this plan doesn’t work,” Addabbo said. “We tried it the governor’s way, it didn’t work, and we are ready with a model that does work. If we don’t hit certain marks by Super Bowl Sunday, I think that’s a tell-tale sign this model is not built for the long-term sustainability our New Yorkers deserve.”

Pretlow would like language included in the budget prompting this review of Cuomo’s model.

“If we start with the governor’s model and it doesn’t work, put something in the budget that it can be revisited and revert to the legislative proposal,” Pretlow said.

Downstate casinos in good position to make budget

Language included in the executive budget asked the Gaming Commission to issue a request for information for the purpose of soliciting interest regarding the downstate casinos.

The 2013 Upstate New York Gaming Economic Development Act allowed for four commercial casinos to open upstate.

The act creates a seven-year moratorium for awarding downstate casinos in order to give upstate casinos a head start. The moratorium ends in 2023.

In its one-house budget, the Senate included language to expedite these casinos in the New York City area. Empire City Casino and MGM Resorts in Yonkers are willing to pay $500 million each to convert their VLT facilities into full-fledged casinos.

Addabbo expects the budget to include the Senate language on expediting downstate casinos. Without mobile sports betting and the downstate casinos, it would leave a $1.5 billion hole in the budget.

“I think the governor has accepted that language,” Addabbo said. “If mobile is in the budget, so is downstate.”

When will the New York budget be done?

The New York budget is due each year by April 1, the start of the next fiscal year.

The legislature and governor have agreed on a budget by that deadline in six of the past seven years. That’s not likely to happen this year.

Pretlow said the earliest the budget can be finalized now is Saturday, and that’s if language is completed today.

Bills must age for three days in New York. The governor can issue a message of necessity to expedite the process. However, Pretlow asserted that the Assembly won’t waive its three days to review the budget.

“We could agree 1 and 1 is 2, and then he changes it so the new law is 1 and 1 is 3 and we don’t see it,” Pretlow said. “The budget is thousands of pages to review. The three-day thing helps us also, so we don’t get in position where things can’t be changed.”

Addabbo expects the budget process to go into next week, but doesn’t think it will be a long delay.

“There’s a good chance we’re not done this week,” Addabbo said. “It’s not about rushing to the finish line but about getting it right.”

Photo by AP / Julio Cortez
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Matthew Kredell

Matthew has covered efforts to legalize and regulate online gambling since 2007. His reporting on the legalization of sports betting began in 2010 with an article for Playboy Magazine on how the NFL was pushing US money overseas by fighting the expansion of regulated sports betting. A USC journalism alum, Matt started his career as a sportswriter at the Los Angeles Daily News and has written on a variety of topics for Playboy, Men’s Journal, Los Angeles magazine, LA Weekly and ESPN.com.

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