Despite the overwhelming passage of a New York online sports betting bill by the New York State Senate on Monday, lawmakers in the General Assembly failed to even convene a vote on corresponding legislation.
Assembly Bill 6113 – that chamber’s companion bill to Senate Bill 17-D – died on the vine two days later on June 19 within the Assembly Standing Committee on Codes as the legislative session came to an end.
The lack of action wasn’t exactly a surprise, given Governor Andrew Cuomo has previously gone on record stating his belief that the state Constitution requires voter approval for online sports wagering to become legal. But powerful Assemblyman Gary Pretlow (D-89) – who has long favored bringing online gambling in many forms to the Empire State and sponsored AB-6113 – had expressed optimism for New York online sports betting only one day earlier while speaking to the Democrat & Chronicle newspaper:
“I want it to happen. I’m hearing the speaker (Carl Heastie) has issues with it. I’m trying to convince him otherwise. I have the backing of the conference. Most members of the conference are in favor of it going forward.”
Senate Bill 17-D and its associated New York online sports betting legislation in the Assembly would’ve allow licensed brick and mortar sportsbook operators to partner with online bookmakers. Earlier this month, the New York State Gaming Commission (NYSGC) unanimously approved regulations allowing commercial and tribal casinos to begin offering sports wagering when their onsite facilities are completed and tested.
Voters approved a ballot referendum in 2013 which amended the state Constitution by calling for the construction of commercial casinos. Lawmakers followed up with a law shortly thereafter by passing a preemptive bill allowing those casinos to offer sports betting, so long as federal law banning the industry outside of Nevada was amended or repealed.
That repeal took place in May of 2018, when the U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling to strike down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992.
After the NYSGC vote this month, land-based sportsbooks are a lock to launch, and casinos have already partnered with bookmakers to build in-house bet shops.
State senator Joseph Addabbo (D-15) introduced S17-D to enable those casinos to make their sportsbook services available anywhere within state lines via online / mobile devices.
And after his bill was overwhelmingly passed by the state Senate in a 57-5 (that tally is unofficial) vote, Addabbo told local media outlets that he was confident his colleagues in the Assembly would see the light:
“We’re giving them a framework that includes everybody, we’re not recreating the wheel. I’m the eternal optimist. I still have two days.”
In a statement issued by his office, Addabbo explained his motivations putting New York on level ground with neighboring New Jersey, where online sports betting makes up over 80 percent of multimillion-dollar monthly revenue hauls:
“Experiences in other states have demonstrated that implementing sports betting without a mobile component leaves those states where people cannot wager with their phones or other devices at a competitive disadvantage. Ultimately, I hope the Governor will choose to embrace the great benefits that sports betting, including the mobile component, will bring to New York in terms of employment, additional funding for education, addressing illegal gambling, and ensuring our competitiveness with other states.”
Cuomo has previously stated his belief that Constitutional mandates require gambling expansion measures to be approved by voters.
And according to Pretlow, who spoke to the New York Post about the legislative gridlock, a key anti-gambling figure in the Assembly tends to agree:
“There’s roadblock in the [state] Assembly. It can’t move, the leadership (Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie) is stuck on the constitutional question.
I’ve been trying to convince them that is totally untrue.”
Heastie (D-83) refused to allow a full floor vote in the Assembly, despite Pretlow’s pledge that he had the 76 votes needed to secure passage.
Asked about this week’s failure, and the prospect of waiting three years for voters to clear a constitutional amendment, Addabbo issued a scathing statement accusing his colleagues of delaying the inevitable:
“I have not witnessed a clear reason why NY can’t implement mobile sports betting this year. Just for the remainder of this fiscal year, we would be losing out on approximately $75 million in revenue, educational funding and both job creation and retention.
We can stand by and do nothing and if that’s what this administration wants to do, that’s it. And we’ll do a constitutional amendment and we’re going to waste three years watching everyone else pass us by.”