Check the thermometer in hell: Gov. Andrew Cuomo is ready to bring NY sports betting into the modern era – sort of.
Cuomo will include mobile New York sports betting in his 2021 policy proposals for the state, according to a report from the NY Daily News. The governor said Wednesday that he wants the state lottery to run it, though, tempering excitement around the development:
The governor consistently opposed mobile wagering in past years and contended the state needed a constitutional amendment to legalize it.
It appears a multibillion-dollar budget deficit fueled by the pandemic softened Cuomo’s opposition — and not a moment too soon for a state bleeding sports betting handle to neighboring New Jersey.
“At a time when New York faces a historic budget deficit due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the current online sports wagering structure incentivizes a large segment of New York residents to travel out of state to make online sports wagers or continue to patronize black markets,” Cuomo said in the report.
While the news might stun longtime industry observers, Cuomo indicated in December that he would consider mobile sports betting and legal marijuana as potential bandages for the state budget crisis.
How big could New York sports betting be?
Mobile wagering in the Empire State could become the country’s crown jewel in the nascent US sports betting market. An Eilers & Krejcik Gaming report in February 2020 estimated New Yorkers wagered $837 million in New Jersey in 2019.
The report indicates about 20% of New Jersey sports wagering comes from New York City. Consider the increase in NJ sports betting handle from 2019 to 2020:
- 2019: $4.5 billion
- 2020: $5 billion*
* First 11 months
New Jersey will approach $6 billion in handle for 2020, with no March Madness betting and four months with no major professional or college sports. Now imagine a more convenient legal option for the roughly 8.4 million people in the boroughs and New York’s potential becomes obvious.
“New York has the potential to be the largest sports wagering market in the United States, and by legalizing online sports betting we aim to keep millions of dollars in tax revenue here at home, which will only strengthen our ability to rebuild from the COVID-19 crisis,” Cuomo said in a statement to the Daily News.
What mobile NY sports betting might look like
The Daily News report indicated Cuomo will ask legislators to require mobile operators to tether to an existing casino, though Wednesday’s announcement puts that in question. Current law allows sports betting in New York only in-person at existing casinos.
Those include both commercial and tribal operations:
- Rivers Sportsbook (Schenectady)
- FanDuel Sportsbook (Tioga Downs)
- DraftKings Sportsbook (del Lago Resort Casino)
- Turning Stone (Syracuse)
- Point Place (Bridgeport)
- Yellow Brick Road Casino (Chittenango)
- Resorts World Catskills (Monticello)
- Akwesasne Mohawk Casino (Hogansburg; pending launch)
The initial proposal does not appear to include a suggested tax rate or licensing fee. To compete with the NJ sports betting market, New York might need to align closely with the Garden State’s 13% levy on mobile revenue.
Previous attempts stalled at multiple stops
Cuomo’s support does not guarantee that mobile sports betting will come to New York. State legislators still need to pass a bill and that proved perilous in past years, although two pre-filed bills already existed prior to Cuomo’s statement.
Sen. Joe Addabbo and Assemblyman Gary Pretlow play Sisyphus in their chambers year after year, After legislators backed a 2013 law for retail sports betting at just four existing casinos, Addabbo and Pretlow failed in multiple tries to add mobile wagering in proceeding years.
Issues including a reluctant Speaker of the Assembly, potential tribal exclusivity claims, and the definition of where mobile bets actually occur complicated efforts. But no roadblock stood as tall as Cuomo’s veto pen.
Just a year ago, Cuomo called potential new forms of gaming revenue “irresponsible” in dismissing the idea of mobile betting:
“There’s no gimmicks. There’s no new casino revenue. … This is not the time to come up with creative although irresponsible revenue sources to solve a problem which doesn’t really exist.”
It appears 2021 might just be the time to solve a problem that exists.