Does NY Sports Betting Have A Backup Plan? Referendum Bill Sees Action

Posted on June 15, 2018
Written By on June 15, 2018

A bill to change the New York constitution to allow sports betting was recommitted to committee on Thursday, according to tracking at the NY Senate website, as lawmakers struggle to pass existing legislation to legalize wagering in the state.

The bill would authorize wagering at gaming facilities in the state; it would also require approval of the state’s voters via a referendum.

It’s not clear if S 1282 a serious effort to legalize sports betting in the state. The bill has seen no action in the legislature other than its introduction in 2017 and referrals to the attorney general for that office’s opinion.

But with less than a week left in the legislature’s session and no clear path forward for other efforts, it stands as a possible alternative for NY sports betting.

A look at this other NY sports betting bill

The bill was originally introduced by Sen. Tony Avella, who represents Queens in New York City.

The bill amends the constitution to allow sports betting; here’s the summary:

Authorizes gambling on professional sporting events and athletic events sponsored by universities or colleges at betting facilities located at thoroughbred and harness racetracks operating in this state, in simulcast theaters operated by off-track betting corporations and in any constitutionally authorized casino facility; provides that the proceeds of such gambling be applied exclusively to or in aid or support of education.

It would take out of the equation and constitutional questions about the bills from Assemblymember Gary Pretlow and Sen. John Bonacic. Those have been raised by the Oneida Nation, among others.

An inquiry with Avella’s office about the bill was not immediately returned. Avella has actually sponsored similar bills on sports wagering dating back to 2011. But, with the US Supreme Court striking down the federal wagering ban last month, the interest in NY sports betting has ratcheted up.

This sports betting bill would have problems…

This is not a panacea to having sports betting in New York in the short term. Here are the steps it would have to take:

  • The bill would have to pass the Assembly and the Senate in the next week. It would not need the signature of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
  • It would have to pass the Assembly and Senate AGAIN in the next legislative session, any time after the new legislature is seated after November elections.
  • The measure would have to be approved via referendum by the state’s voters.

So, that seemingly leads to a timeline of legal wagering in 2020, if all would happen as outlined above.

And how likely is that scenario in the first place? Let’s just say we’re not betting on it happen based on current information.

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Dustin Gouker

Dustin Gouker has been a sports journalist for more than 15 years, working as a reporter, editor and designer -- including stops at The Washington Post and the D.C. Examiner.

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