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The chairmen of gaming committees in each chamber of the legislature are beginning a full-court press on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to include mobile NY sports betting in the state budget.
Assemblyman Gary Pretlow tells Legal Sports Report that he will deliver a letter to Speaker Carl Heastie this week that asks for mobile New York sports betting and expedited downstate casino licenses to be in the Assembly budget.
This is significant because the Assembly has never joined the Senate in pushing for mobile sports wagering in New York. Last year, Sen. Joseph Addabbo Jr. succeeded in getting the NY sports betting expansion language into the Senate budget, which wasn’t enough to get it into the final package.
“I’m pushing hard in my house, and I know the senator is pushing hard in his house, to get this in the budget,” Pretlow said. “The state is supposedly looking at a $4 (billion) to $6 billion deficit this year, and this would go a long way to reduce that deficit.”
Last year, Addabbo blamed the Assembly for not forming a united front to pressure Gov. Andrew Cuomo to include mobile in the final budget.
From the beginning of the budget discussions, Pretlow said he and the Assembly weren’t fans of including policy in the budget.
“What’s different this year is I want to get it done,” Pretlow said. “Yes, I don’t think policy should be in the budget. But, if that’s the only way to get it done, then get it done. This is more fiscal than policy, to be honest with you. This is trying to alleviate some of the pressures we have with our shortfall.”
Cuomo not only didn’t include mobile sports betting in his initial budget proposal but made a point of highlighting his budget was done without any new casino revenue.
“This is not the time to come up with creative although irresponsible revenue sources to solve a problem which doesn’t really exist,” Cuomo said in his budget address.
That didn’t seem to leave much room for negotiation on the topic.
“Give New Yorkers the opportunity to bet on their favorite sporting events,” Pretlow countered in a plea to the governor. “I don’t know what his pushback on this is. The governor is still saying he has a constitutional question on it, and I’m trying to tell him that it’s not his purview to decide what’s constitutional or not constitutional. That’s up to the state Court of Appeals.”
Mobile NY sports betting wouldn’t solve the sizable New York budget deficit. Estimates suggest it would add about $100 million in revenue for the state.
Speeding up the issuance of three licenses for casinos around the New York City area could make that a more significant chunk, between $1.5 billion and $2 billion. Pretlow noted two offers on the table of half a billion dollars each from existing facilities in the state to become full-fledged casinos, adding he is asking for them to increase their offers.
He thinks this is a big enough number to put pressure on the governor if both chambers include the gambling expansions in their one-house budget proposals.
“We want to put a billion more into education. For him to line-item that out, he has to also say he’s reducing education funding by a billion dollars. It doesn’t look good for him to say he doesn’t want to do sports betting and casinos because of whatever the reason is, but he also doesn’t want to give a billion dollars to education.
“If both houses put it in our one-house budgets, he will be hard-pressed to veto it. He can say he didn’t want to do it but the legislature did it.”
Pretlow said he has 71 members of the Assembly in favor of having mobile New York sports wagering in the budget. He needs five more votes to clear a majority, and he’s confident he can get there.
“Before the budget is printed, I will speak to the entire Democratic Conference and get them on board to doing it,” Pretlow said. “I think that will put pressure on the speaker to get on board. He’s not a fan of gambling, period, but he’s also swayed by the opinion of the entire conference.”
Although he has not convinced the governor of the constitutionality of mobile sports wagering, Pretlow thinks he has made a breakthrough in convincing members of the Assembly.
“It’s having an impact on some of my colleagues,” Pretlow said. “I think over the course of the break, I kind of convinced them that mine and Sen. Addabbo’s approach is correct. They should not be backing the governor on this but instead should be backing members who have done a lot of work and know the ins and outs of it.”
New York must have a budget in place by April 1.
Mobile NY sports betting’s chances to make the budget will become clearer by the middle of March when the Assembly finalizes its budget proposal.
If the Assembly joins the Senate in pushing for gambling expansions in the budget, the spotlight will be on Cuomo to make a decision.
“Between me, you and the wall, I think the governor is convinced, but he backed himself into a wall because it’s hard for him to change his position,” Pretlow said. “If you’ve been negotiating on something for a year and a half, you can’t just change your mind. So we have to force his hand into saying, ‘It’s not me, it’s them.’ And if it’s them, he’ll sign it. He’s not going to veto it.”