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NY Sports Betting Bill Cozies Ups To Leagues, But Leaves Tribes Wondering

fingers of a hand with faces on them

Dating back to last year, New York state Sen. John Bonacic started dropping hints he had sports betting on the brain. Last month, a copy of the rumored official bill even surfaced.

No more speculating though. Bonacic dropped the official bill in NY state Senate last week. Keep in mind, New York lawmakers already greenlit sports betting in the Empire State if the federal ban on sports betting is ever lifted. However, there is not much to measure beyond making it legal.

What this new bill does is starts to establish a legal framework and regulations for the New York sports betting industry.

Bill is unclear what places can accept wagers

The bill is S7900. Bonacic’s bill is pretty similar to the leaked draft of a bill released in February. Some of the major elements of the bill are:

  • Wagering at casinos, racetracks, and off-track betting parlor
  • A .25 percent “integrity fee” going to the major sports leagues
  • A partnership with the leagues regarding what data is available to bettors

While the point of this bill is to clarify where betting can take place, it is still pretty vague. The language says casinos, but it is not clear if that is strictly commercial casinos or if tribal casinos are part of the deal.

Given the shaky relationship between tribes and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, this is something to keep an eye on. Tribal casinos are already upset about the new commercial casinos are cutting into their profits. Many in the casino industry, both tribal and commercial, say the situation in New York might not be sustainable.

One group of casinos, those owned by the Seneca Nation, even stopped payment to the state. The arbitration between Seneca Nation and the state is ongoing. Perhaps sports betting might be one of the bargaining chips?

Leagues did exert some influence on legislation

While the tribal relationship to this bill is up in the air, the major sports leagues are clearly in a much cozier position. While the groups did not get the full one percent of handle as an “integrity fee” that they lobbied for elsewhere, they did get a cut from the state.

The .25 percent of handle (all money wagered) does cap out at two percent of total revenue. But it is also arguably money for nothing. In Nevada, where sports betting has run without issue for decades, no money from any betting goes to the leagues.

Additionally, the bill sets up league control over the information bettors use to place wagers. This sets up the potential for leagues to maintain a monopoly on that info.

Bonacic wants to be on the sports betting ball

In a statement released with the bill, Bonacic stressed the importance of acting proactively versus reactively. He stated:

“New York State has historically been behind the curve in dealing with developments in the gaming world, and it has been to our detriment. If allowed, sports betting will be a revenue enhancer for education in New York. We have the chance to ensure our sports betting statute is fully developed and addresses the needs of the state and all stakeholders so we can hit the ground running if and when we can authorize and regulate sports betting.”

This bill is a step in the right direction for New York to be ready to roll when and if federal law changes. However, the bill is not without its flaws and the tribal casino question is one to address sooner rather than later.

Jessica Welman

About

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 WSOP.com. 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.