While Gov. Andrew Cuomo briefly mentioned his single-operator online sports betting proposal Monday in his State of the State address, two lawmakers plotted to move an alternate option forward.
Next week when the governor releases the language of his proposal in the executive budget, Sen. Joseph Addabbo Jr. and Assemblyman Gary Pretlow plan to advance their vision for online sports betting in New York through committee.
Addabbo and Pretlow chair their chambers Racing, Gaming, and Wagering committees. They introduced their bills together last week. Now they want to advance the bills on the same day as a show of unity.
“We introduced these bills simultaneously to show unification,” Addabbo said. “To show the leadership in both houses that we’re lockstep in not embracing the governor’s proposal. By pushing them through committee together, hopefully on the same day, we hope it entices the legislative leadership to negotiate these points with the governor.”
Governor provides little clarity in annual address
Cuomo put the entire New York gaming industry in an uproar last week when he spoke about the state running online sports betting the way it does the lottery, with a single operator.
A press release indicated the governor wants the New York State Gaming Commission to choose one online sports betting operator to serve a state of nearly 20 million people.
“I think this can’t happen,” Pretlow said of the governor’s proposal. “This is nonsense. People don’t want a single source for online sports betting. It’s not going to do the things he thinks it’s going to do. People want competition. People want a choice.”
On Monday in his State of the State address, Cuomo mentioned online sports betting as part of his plan to make up a $14 billion budget gap without providing further detail.
He will give subsequent speeches Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. However, traditionally, governors have used their State of the State speeches to lay out their major policy proposals for the year in broad strokes.
The full details of his sports betting plan will be in his executive budget proposal, which he must release by Jan. 19.
Lawmaker doubts Cuomo’s online sports betting plan
Neither Addabbo nor Pretlow has seen the language of Cuomo’s proposal. They are anxious to do so, as they don’t understand how it could possibly work.
The state constitution only approves sports betting at New York casinos. The governor’s press release does indicate that the online sports betting operator must be partnered with an existing commercial casino.
But how could it pass legal muster to allow online sports betting servers at one casino and not the others?
“If I were a casino that wasn’t getting the authorization, I would definitely be suing them,” Pretlow said.
Pretlow also believes Native American tribes would force a state-run system to geofence out tribal lands, which would cut off a sizeable chunk of the state.
The governor’s budget director claimed the single-operator system could bring as much as $500 million a year in revenue. Pretlow scoffs at that possibility and fears that if that’s the number put in the budget then the legislature will have to find ways to make up the difference when the real number falls way short.
“I don’t see how sports wagering can raise $500 million a year for the state unless we have $30 billion in bets,” Pretlow said. “We’re not going to have $30 billion in bets.”
Moving sports betting bills sets up budget negotiation
The legislative proposal pitches a much different, more inclusive model for online sports betting in New York. It includes two skins per commercial casino and gaming tribe, which would create a marketplace with 14 competing sports betting apps to start.
Addabbo and Pretlow have different hopes for the outcome of moving their online sports betting bills through committee.
Pretlow wants to push for the chambers to pass the bill and put it on the governor’s desk prior to budget passage.
Addabbo realizes that it’s highly unlikely that the legislature would pass a standalone online sports betting bill ahead of the budget. He also doesn’t think it would help their cause to force the governor to veto the bill.
“What we don’t want to do is anger the governor and interfere with budget negotiations,” Addabbo said. “I think the best way to move forward on sports betting is to have options. The governor has his proposal without much detail. We have a quite extensive, comprehensive bill supported by the industry that addresses practically every issue under the sun when it comes to sports betting.”