With Operators Chosen, Could Online Sports Betting Kick Off By NFL Playoffs?

Written By Mike Mazzeo on November 9, 2021 - Last Updated on November 8, 2021

Could legalized online sports betting in New York be fully up and running by the NFL playoffs in January?

That would be ahead of the state’s goal of the Feb. 13 Super Bowl.

But Sen. Joseph Addabbo, long an advocate of online sports betting in the Empire State, believes it is feasible.

“The NFL playoffs in January, I think that’s totally possible,” Addabbo told PlayNY after the New York State Gaming Commission approved nine operators for licenses in the state at a 51% tax rate.

“That’s being realistically optimistic, especially with the announcement today.”

Addabbo praised the NYSGC for being slightly ahead of schedule. The commission had until Dec. 6 to accept applicants for licenses. The winners were FanDuel, DraftKings, Bally’s, BetMGM, Caesars, Resorts World, WynnBet, PointsBet and Rush Street.

But there is still work to be done.

NY online sports betting operators to house servers at casinos

For starters, incoming New York online sports betting providers must find locations for their servers.

“Winning bidders may select a facility to house servers, with the Commission retaining final approval of location as well as reasonable and actual costs,” a NYSGC spokesperson said. “Each needs to build out a server room, equipment has to be tested and approved by an independent testing laboratory.”

The servers must be housed on the properties of the state’s four upstate commercial casinos.

“The servers will always be, if not a concern of mine, something that I need to focus on,” Addabbo said. “Because every time I interact or email (executive director) Rob Williams, it’s about the servers now. We have to get them up and running, because that’s what validates the mobile bet.”

Could NY online betting launch by NFL playoffs?

Addabbo is an eternal optimist about everything, essentially to a fault. A January timeline could include a first bet, soft launch and then, ultimately, full launch.

The key dates would then be NFL wild card weekend (Jan. 15-17), the divisional round (Jan. 22-23) and the conference championship games (Jan. 30). The fact that the league has added a Monday wild card night game to its usual Saturday-Sunday slate would certainly generate a buzz, even if the online betting was still in a limited capacity by that point.

“You are talking to a person who wants the first mobile bet tomorrow,” Addabbo said. “So I want it tomorrow. I’ve been saying December, and my team and stay would say, ‘Stop. Don’t say December.’ But I’m an eternal optimist. And then they say I have ‘very aggressive optimism’ and I have ‘realistic optimism.’ And so my aggressive optimism always said ‘December, late December.’ And certainly in the NFL playoffs, that would be realistic optimism.

“These bidders, these winning bidders, they’ve got experience. They could do this tomorrow because they’re part of the industry. They have that kind of experience. But again it’s the technical stuff now, certain regulations have to be printed and posted. And I get that, and that brings us to the end of November, most likely. And then simultaneously they’re working on the servers.”

The NYSGC has its hands full, also dealing with the RFIs for the three remaining downstate casino licenses as well.

“They’ve got a lot on their plate,” Addabbo said. “But all that has to be understood is that all of that equates to educational funding, jobs and revenue at a time when it’s certainly needed — in addition to addiction funding — so the more they work at getting the downstate licenses and mobile sports betting, it goes right to the people of New York. So I’ll remain aggressively optimistic.

Excitement abounds, but will NY online betting be hampered by regulations?

Addabbo will continue to push for online sports betting in NY in early 2022.

“After getting over the technical glitches that the gaming commission had during its (online) meeting, I hope the servers work better than that,” Addabbo said. “But there’s obviously great enthusiasm, and obviously I won’t be happy until that first bet is placed and all the glitches have been cleared.

“It’s an exciting day, watching that ball get closer to the goal line. That’s what it’s all about. But I won’t be happy until we stop all the money going to other states and illegal (bookies). I won’t be happy until the ball is over the goal line.”

In what was perhaps sour grapes — but could end up being an accurate prediction — Penn National CEO Jay Snowden speculated that no operators would be able to make money in New York at a 51% tax rate. And there are already questions about whether NY bettors will get as good lines and promotions as neighboring states.

“It’s all based on conjecture at this point,” Addabbo said. “Where does New York stand globally in terms of sports? It’s the sports capital of the world, as many people perceive it. And then you add in the tourism base, the population base, and we know our residents are just clamoring to get mobile sports betting because they’re on (the George Washington) bridge doing it close to New Jersey.

“So you know there’s an appetite, we have the potential, we know we can eclipse other states. But it all reverts back to the premiere product that we know we must have in order for residents to switch whatever they’re doing and stay with us. We’ll see. We have operators and providers that are willing to work with the 51% rate in New York and make it work It really depends on the product.”

Photo by AP / Adrian Kraus
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Mike Mazzeo

Mike Mazzeo has covered New York sports since 2010, previously working as a beat writer and columnist for ESPN (Nets), Yahoo Sports (NBA/MLB) and the New York Daily News (Yankees). His work has also been published in the New York Times, New York Post, Forbes and The Ringer.

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