NY Sports Betting Is Going Nowhere, As Gaming Commission Spins Its Wheels On Authorization

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NY sports betting spinning wheels

The New York State Gaming Commission met as scheduled this afternoon, and sports betting appeared briefly at the top of the proceedings. According to the director, regulators are still working to draft a framework for the industry.

Voters authorized NY sports betting through commercial casinos under a 2013 referendum, contingent on a change in federal law. That change came in May, of course, courtesy of the US Supreme Court. The newly activated law directs the commission to promulgate rules for sports betting, but it doesn’t specify a timeline.

Two months later, NY regulators are stuck on the bottom stair with more questions than answers.

Small update from NYS Gaming

There hasn’t been a substantial update on the timeline in a while, and today was no exception.

Acting Executive Director Ron Ochrym said his staff “continues to work on regulations that would effectuate sports gambling under existing statutory language.” That’s been the default update since May.

Some of the outstanding items Ochrym highlighted are curious, though:

There are, however, a number of thorny policy [inaudible] that staff have been considering, including whether the existing law should be read so as to authorize mobile wagering without new statutory enactments. And if so, whether to limit the number of skins available, and whether commercial casinos should be required to subscribe or access official league data for resolution of proposition wagers.

Staff is likely to engage stakeholders and seek[…] industry comment. We want to make certain that the regulations, when proposed, make sense.

There’s nothing wrong with taking a measured approach to crafting regulations. The perceived advantage of being among the first states to offer sports betting is likely overblown. It’s far more important to do it right.

But why are regulators putting so many hurdles in front of themselves?

Mobile wagering, you say?

It’s confusing to hear that the commission is still trying to decipher mobile wagering. As written, NY law seems to lay out a clear prohibition.

Here are the two relevant bits:

Keep in mind that the law is six years old, passed before mobile platforms became predominant for bettors. NY lawmakers involved in the issue understand the need to go back and broaden this language next year.

The commission has a fair amount of leeway, but not so much that it can change the law. Limited mobile betting could be offered, it appears, but only to patrons physically inside the brick-and-mortar sportsbook. The language seems to prohibit off-site mobile wagering in black and white.

Should regulators determine that the law authorizes mobile betting, they’ll need to decide whether or not to allow branded websites/apps from third-party operators, and how many to allow. Again, the commission is leaning out over its skis if this is hindering progress. Mobile betting in NY is a conversation for another time.

Regulators also have lingering questions of data rights as it relates to settling bets, it seems. The NBA and Major League Baseball are among the sports leagues that lobbied NY lawmakers for financial inclusion, whether it be through data fees, royalty fees, or the so-called integrity fees.

No regulatory body has mandated the use of official league data to date, but Ochyrm’s staff is giving it a look.

Meanwhile, in other states…

Despite a good effort, active sports betting bills in both chambers failed to reach a vote before NY lawmakers adjourned.

In the meantime, Delaware and New Jersey have both launched their own state-regulated industries, and NJ sports betting is already providing a real temptation for New Yorkers.

The very first FanDuel Sportsbook opened at Meadowlands this past weekend, a new legal option just across the river from New York City. During NFL season, thousands of potential bettors tailgate in that shared MetLife Stadium parking lot before Giants/Jets games. When online/mobile platforms go live in the coming weeks, New Yorkers won’t even need to go that far. Simply crossing the imaginary line into NJ will be enough to facilitate legal betting via smartphone.

By the time NY lawmakers return to Albany, as many as seven or eight states should have legal sports betting. New York could be one of them, but only if the commission can find a way past this regulatory foot-dragging.