No New Law Needed To Start NY Mobile Sports Betting, Senator Says

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A key New York senator believes mobile NY sports betting doesn’t need any more legislative help.

New York Sen. Joseph Addabbo, Jr., told Legal Sports Report that he plans to argue that mobile and online sports betting don’t need any further authorization from legislation, let alone a constitutional amendment.

Four upstate casinos in New York already are approved to offer sports betting, pending the issuance of rules and regulations that are scheduled to be discussed today by the New York State Gaming Commission. Addabbo contends that servers being located at the casinos and people registering for mobile accounts in person should be enough.

“I don’t think we need a mobile sports betting bill if we incorporate it into the current language where gaming can be had at the four casinos,” Addabbo said. “I would personally advocate that, if they put mobile servers on site and people are required to go to these four sites to register, that would satisfy our state constitution by my interpretation.”

Governor favors constitutional amendment

In December, Addabbo told the Times Union that he expected the mobile sports betting bill he introduced this month, S 17, to get done in the budget. However, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget director indicated that the governor’s office believes a constitutional amendment would be needed to allow sports betting anywhere but existing private and tribal casinos.

Assemblyman Gary Pretlow told Legal Sports Report he would continue to push for his forthcoming companion bill, even as he believed it would be vetoed. That’s because a constitutional amendment would require a three-year process in which New York would continue to lose money on sports wagers to neighboring states like New Jersey.

“If we’re looking for revenue – and we are – if we’re looking to create jobs, to increase educational funding, this is the way to go,” Addabbo said. “I want to avoid changing the state constitution at all costs because that’s three years of less revenue when we need revenue.”

Mobile NY sports betting through regulation?

Addabbo, the new chair of the Senate Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee, hopes to convince the New York Gaming Commission to include mobile wagering in its regulations. Mobile wagering was not included in the draft copy of proposed rules obtained by Legal Sports Report.

However, there will be a 60-day comment period before the rules can be finalized, which happens to coincide approximately with when the New York budget needs to be finished on April 1.

“That’s an interpretation of myself and Senate legal counsel,” Addabbo said. “I’m hopeful the Gaming Commission, governor’s office and Assemblyman Pretlow will see it the same way. I’d like as many people under the tent with me as possible.”

Sports betting could still make final budget

Cuomo surprised many by not including any revenue from sports betting in his proposed budget last week. Given that he had asked for sports betting at the upstate casinos in his State of the State address, and the Gaming Commission responded by moving forward on regulations, it figures that sports betting will be raising some revenue for the state in the next fiscal year.

“The fact exists that the availability of this revenue is there,” Addabbo said. “Hopefully in the next eight weeks, as the budget evolves and we work with the gaming commission and the governor’s office, sports betting will be in the final budget.”

Addabbo will take sports betting at the four private upstate and two tribal upstate casinos, but he is hoping mobile wagering will also be included. He noted that the governor might have kept sports betting out of his initial budget proposal to get a better sense of revenue projections following the Gaming Commission’s actions.

“I think we need to maximize our potential this year with regards to sports betting, If that’s just the four upstate casinos, that’s fine, but we need to do all we can within the constitution this year regarding sports betting, especially with neighboring states surrounding us with sports betting and us losing revenue to those states. We have constituents who can get on their bikes and place a bet in New Jersey in the matter of minutes.”

Revenue needed to bridge funding gap

The governor’s budget proposal included $1.8 billion in new revenues, including from marijuana legalization, to close a $4.7 billion General Fund budget gap. Regulated sports betting generated more than $10 million in tax revenue for New Jersey in just more than six months last year.

“Our state budget has a $3 billion deficit, so you’ve got to look for credible ways to raise revenue, as we’re not about to raise taxes on our people,” Addabbo said. “Sports betting fits right into that category. It raises revenue for the state, creates jobs and supports educational funding. It would bring some financial stability to our four upstate casinos.”

Pretlow previously told Legal Sports Report it’s difficult to change the governor’s mind once it is set, but Addabbo noted that it has been done.

“I’ve seen the governor do a 180 on paid family leave and medical marijuana,” Addabbo said. “Our governor is very methodical and I appreciate him looking into a situation – all the pros and cons and aspects, before making a decision – but he certainly has evolved on certain issues. Hopefully the facts and figures can have him look more broadly at sports betting.”