In December 2020, Randy Levine wrote an op-ed for Empire Report calling for legalized sports betting in New York City. According to the New York Yankees president, the industry would become a means to provide much-needed revenue during the coronavirus pandemic.
So it comes as no surprise that Levine remains all-in on sports betting following New York’s successful online launch in January.
“New York has proven to be everything that we all thought it would be,” Levine told PlayNY.
In its first 30 days in business, online sportsbooks in New York took in nearly $2 billion in wagers, generating almost $71 million in tax revenue for the state.
“I think it’s been tremendous. I think everything has gone better than expected,” Levine said.
New York’s 51% tax rate remains a long-term concern
Still, like others, Levine has concerns about how New York’s 51% tax rate — which includes taxing promotional/free play — could negatively impact operators from a long-term financial standpoint as they attempt to become profitable.
“That worries me,” Levine said. “The volume is great and the state is making money. But if companies are losing money, they’re not going to be here.”
The majority of states that offer legalized sports betting do not allow deduction of promotional play, though NY’s tax rate is the highest in the country. Some states allow sportsbooks to deduct a percentage. That policy has become more commonplace.
According to New York regulations, in part:
“Promotional [gaming credits] spend shall not be [used in a sports wagering lounge] deducted from revenue or added to loss when calculating gross gaming revenue.”
Could New York lower tax rate in future?
Sen. Joe Addabbo told PlayNY in December 2021 that, on occasion, legislation “is motivated by complaints or obviously people coming out and requesting a change. But I’ve heard nothing, to be honest with you.
“So the idea is we start our business (session) on Jan. 5, and we’ll see. If we get enough people inquiring about making a certain change like that and we can get support in the (state) assembly and the senate, then we would entertain it. But the idea here is it has to show some type of momentum.”
State Assemblyman Gary Pretlow opposes the deduction of promotional play from the 51% tax rate.
“I would love for promotional play, but not out of our money, no,” Pretlow told PlayNY in December 2021. “And that’s another reason why I want to make sure they maintain the 51%. If you sign that deal, then don’t come around and say now we have to give free play. So reduce our 51% down to 43% or whatever number they come up with.”
Yankees committed to adding sports betting
Many New York teams have been aggressive when it comes to NY sports betting expansion — and the Yankees will only continue that trend.
The Bronx Bombers supported the Super Bid by FanDuel, DraftKings, BetMGM and Bally Bet before those sportsbook ultimately received licenses by the New York State Gaming Commission.
“We think responsible sports betting is a good way to improve engagement with our fans,” Levine said. “Baseball is a great game to responsibly bet — whether you’re going to be on location of the next pitch or whether an at-bat will end in a single, double or strikeout. The possibilities are endless.”
The Washington Nationals recently became the first team to open a retail sportsbook connected to an MLB stadium. The Arizona Diamondbacks have a temporary sportsbook near its venue, with a permanent space expected to open in the near future. Addabbo and Pretlow introduced matching bills that would allow for kiosks at New York stadiums and arenas. Levine said the Yankees would like to open their own retail — assuming the states eventually permit them.
“I think (a retail sportsbook) would be great because I think casinos, mobile sports betting, kiosks, it’s all part of the same landscape,” Levine said. “These kiosks and lounges have worked in other places — Washington and other places — so I think it would be very good.”
What NY sportsbook would partner with Yankees?
The Yankees have had talks with multiple NY online sports betting operators about partnerships. They have had a partnership in the past with FanDuel, so that’s certainly one possibility.
PointsBet recently told PlayNY that they’d like to integrate live betting content on Mets’ SNY telecasts. YES Network could certainly do something similar on Yankees’ telecasts.
“One of the things we’re talking about with all the people we’re negotiating with — the Yankees are separate — but YES is also negotiating with a lot of different people to do all that stuff,” Levine said.
MLB is currently in the midst of a labor dispute. But the sport has certainly been paying attention to the allegations that have rocked the NFL regarding Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross telling ex-coach Brian Flores to throw games in exchange for $100,000 for every loss in order to secure a higher draft pick.
Education on sports betting is paramount for both players and staffers alike.
“As I said it has to be responsible (for fans), there’s always potential for damage or harm with gambling,” Levine said. “Baseball is all over. We’re all over it in terms of education. We have safeguards, but you have to be vigilant as far as making sure things we control are policed in the appropriate way.”