When there’s an 800-pound gorilla in the room, people tend to take notice. Assemblyman Gary Pretlow called New York sports betting that “800-pound gorilla” that the state legislature isn’t going to be able to ignore in 2019.
“New Jersey is doing even better than expected with sports betting because they’re getting all that New York action, which is what I said would happen and it’s happening,” Pretlow said. “I read in New Jersey they brought in $24 million from sports betting in September, which is huge.”
For years, Pretlow’s colleagues have heard his arguments regarding the need to authorize and regulate online poker and sports betting, and responded that there already was too much gambling.
Now that they’ve seen the money generated in New Jersey sports betting — which he expects would translate to a minimum of $150 million annually in New York — Pretlow is 90 percent certain that sports betting receives legislative approval next year.
New bill, same as the old bill
Pretlow stated that he will reintroduce his sports betting bill in January, and that he doesn’t plan to make any changes from the bill as it was written at the end of last session.
This would mean professional sports leagues still have a shot at making their coveted integrity fee a thing via New York sports betting. The previous bill had a 0.2 percent royalty from each wager made going to the relevant sports league and a tax rate of 8.5 percent.
The bill would authorize mobile sports betting, and sports betting at the state’s brick-and-mortar tribal casinos and racetracks. Sports betting at the state’s four commercial casinos was authorized in a ballot initiative in 2013, but the New York State Gaming Commission has yet to issue regulations for them to proceed.
“I’m not considering any changes, but I don’t know the feeling of my new counterpart in the Senate, so I don’t know what they might want to add, subtract or change,” Pretlow said.
Sen. John Bonacic is retiring from the legislature, leaving a vacancy for chair of the Senate Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee. It is not yet known who will take his place, but it will be a Democrat as the Senate flipped parties. Pretlow does expect to return as chair of the Assembly Racing and Wagering Committee.
“Unless the Speaker has other plans for me, I will still be chair,” Pretlow said. “I have no reason to believe otherwise.
No Foolin’: sports betting has chance in April budget
While he plans to reintroduce his sports betting bill in January, Pretlow doesn’t expect any movement on the issue until New York passes its budget in April.
In the past couple years, the New York Senate has put online poker in its budget proposals, but the Assembly and governor weren’t interested in including anything related to gambling.
At the end of the last session, Pretlow was frustrated that Gov. Andrew Cuomo served as a cooler for sports betting’s prospects in the state following the Supreme Court decision opening it up for states to pursue authorizing the activity, saying he didn’t expect New York to approve sports betting in 2018.
Governor expected to help New York sports betting
Now he is confident that the governor is on board, and he expects that to lead Cuomo including sports betting in the budget. During a gubernatorial debate leading up to the November elections, Cuomo stated that he did “support [sports betting] under the right places, under the right conditions.”
“I think the governor wants to do this,” Pretlow said. “I think he will probably want to put some form of sports betting in the budget as revenue enhancement.”
Getting sports betting in the governor’s budget would mean the legislature wouldn’t even have to wait until the usual end-of-session flurry in June to move on the issue.
“There may be some tweaks in subsequent legislation, but if it’s in the governor’s budget then it’s a done deal,” Pretlow said.
Lottery not in plans
Pretlow recently answered a question as to if the New York Lottery could be involved in sports betting and said that he didn’t know why not. He clarified that he thought it was possible the lottery could be involved in some way, but that it’s not going to be the lottery running sports betting in New Jersey the way that is done in Delaware and Rhode Island.
“The existing casinos wouldn’t like that, of course,” Pretlow said. “Right now, that’s not my intention. I said we could possibly do some type of sports betting through the lottery, but that’s not something we’re even thinking about right now.”
Mobile betting may need constitutional amendment
New York is having an issue with the courts in regard to daily fantasy sports and whether it falls under constitutional prohibitions against gambling.
Pretlow is aware that sports betting could have a constitutional issue when it comes to mobile/online betting.
“The constitution says that sports betting is legal in the casino, but it doesn’t say it’s legal anyplace else,” Pretlow said. “The question is that when the original legislation took the stance that sports betting is legal in casinos, if the server is in the casino and someone in the city of New York is betting on that casino’s website or app, is that enough to satisfy the constitution?”
Pretlow is hoping a constitutional amendment is not needed, but if mobile sports betting is approved this year and it is determined that there is a constitutional issue, that would cause a great delay to put New York even farther behind its neighboring states on sports betting.
How it might work
Constitutional amendments are a three-year process in New York. If the legislature asks for a constitutional amendment in 2019, it won’t reach the ballot for voters to decide until 2021.
However, if the legislature could squeeze the constitutional amendment in before the end of this month and then pass it again in 2019, having two separate legislatures vote for the amendment would put it on the ballot immediately, in November 2019.
Pretlow indicated that he would like to make this happen as a precaution. However, it would take either the governor or both branches of the legislature to call a special session, for any reason, to even be possible.
At the end of last session, there was draft language of a constitutional amendment floating around the capitol, but it never received serious consideration.
“I have lawyers looking at it, and some say it’s not needed while some say it’s needed,” Pretlow said of the amendment. “To cover myself, I would prefer to do it just to make sure it’s done. I should have done it in the regular session. I don’t have much hope of a special session being called.”