New York Assemblyman Gary Pretlow plans to push ahead with his bill to authorize mobile NY sports betting and retail betting at racetracks.
Pretlow will continue even as he now expects Gov. Andrew Cuomo would veto the bill.
Pretlow disagrees with Cuomo’s position, articulated Monday by his budget director, that allowing sports betting anywhere outside existing private and tribal casinos would require an amendment to the state constitution.
“It’s separate branches of government,” Pretlow said. “We do our thing, they do their thing, and we hope to come to a meeting of the minds at some point in time. He would more than likely veto it, but the only way we’re going to find out is to do it.
“Maybe he won’t veto it. Maybe we can override his veto. A lot of things can happen. But if we don’t try something, it’s never going to happen.”
NY sports betting on governor’s mind
Pretlow was confused by Cuomo’s statements regarding sports betting in his State of the State address Tuesday. Cuomo listed to “authorize sports betting at existing upstate casinos” on his first 100 days agenda. He further explained:
“We invested in upstate casinos. Let’s authorize sports betting in the upstate casinos. It’s here, it’s a reality, and it will help generate activity in those casinos.”
Pretlow points out that the New York legislature already authorized the upstate casinos to offer sports betting when federal law allowed in 2013. That came long before the Supreme Court decision last May that overturned PASPA.
“That’s not really what I was expecting,” Pretlow said of Cuomo’s comments regarding sports betting. “It sounded like he said he wanted to authorize the casinos, but they’ve already been authorized. What we’re waiting for is the Gaming Commission to come out with regulations, which so far they have not done.”
What Cuomo seems to be doing is stating that he expects the New York Gaming Commission to issue regulations in the first 100 days of the year for the four upstate commercial casinos to begin offering sports betting.
Budget plans coming
The governor would provide a clearer message to the commission that he expects regulations issued soon if he includes sports betting revenue in his budget proposal for the 2019-20 fiscal year, which Pretlow expects to see next week.
Such revenue would be limited without including mobile gaming and racetracks, as the authorized commercial and tribal casinos are located in upstate New York.
“Without a new bill to expand on existing provisions, the people of New York City will continue to go into New Jersey to place their sports bets,” Pretlow said.
The racetracks, which would partner with casinos to offer sports betting under the Senate bill pre-filed by Sen. Joseph Addabbo, are easily accessible to New York City boroughs.
Mobile sports betting would allow the more than 8 million people in New York City the option of placing a bet from their phones. They now must cross into New Jersey to place bets, sending sports betting revenue to the Garden State.
Why a constitutional amendment could be needed
In 2013, the legislature set out to authorize four commercial casinos in upstate New York. This expansion in gambling required a constitutional amendment. The legislature had the foresight to include language permitting the future casinos to offer sports betting if a change in federal law permitted.
What this voter-backed referendum added to the constitution says sports betting is legal in the casinos, but not anywhere else. The question is whether the server that is taking the bet being located in the casino is enough to satisfy this constitutional requirement, or if the person placing the bet needs to be in the casino.
Pretlow believes the server located in the casino should be enough, and he says he has lawyers looking for supporting precedent.
“Some people are saying it needs a constitutional amendment, but I don’t agree with that,” Pretlow said. “I take the stance that we just do this and let the courts sort it out.”
A reason Cuomo might be reluctant to do so is that the daily fantasy sports bill he signed was ruled as unconstitutional by the state Supreme Court last year.
Pretlow won’t push … yet
So if a constitutional amendment is all it takes to ensure sports betting starts in New York, why not just amend the constitution? Voters approved the referendum that included sports betting in 2013, at a time when having sports betting in the state would have been illegal.
Well, a constitutional amendment is a lengthy process. The earliest the legislature could get it on the ballot at this point is November 2021. Pretlow doesn’t want to wait that long while neighboring states take customers from New York.
Near the end of last year, Pretlow expressed regret that he didn’t push for the constitutional amendment during the regular session. If the legislature passed the amendment last year and again this year, it could have appeared on the ballot in 2019.
Special session never appeared
Pretlow hoped a special session would be called by the legislature at the end of the year to right the situation, but it didn’t happen.
But Pretlow also doesn’t want to compromise his position that an amendment is not needed by pushing for an amendment.
“I don’t want to introduce an amendment this year because, by doing so, I would be weakening my contention that the server being at the casino means the person doesn’t need to be present at the casino,” Pretlow said. “If it does need a constitutional amendment, there’s nothing stopping us from doing that, but it’s an uphill battle and it will take until 2021.”
Sports leagues could be ally
Pretlow says he believes he pre-filed the same sports betting bill he tried to get passed at the end of last session. (Pretlow’s bill has yet to be shown in the New York Assembly system.) Regardless, he says his bill is coming and it will be the same as Addabbo’s in the Senate.
“I had a conversation with Sen. Addabbo yesterday and we don’t foresee any changes,” Pretlow said.
Those bills included an integrity fee of 0.20 percent of the handle for bets placed to the corresponding sporting league. If the leagues want to see that royalty, Pretlow indicated that they will need to put their powerful lobbying groups behind convincing the governor that a constitutional amendment is not needed.
“The Gaming Commission won’t be giving them a royalty,” Pretlow said.