With their state’s newly legalized sports betting industry lagging behind that of its much smaller neighbor New Jersey, lawmakers in New York are pressing to add online / mobile wagering via the budget process. The Empire State approved regulated sportsbooks back in June of last year, at which time state senator Joseph Addabbo (D-15) attempted to push an online / mobile betting bill through the New York State Legislature.
In introducing his online / mobile sportsbook bill, Addabbo – who serves as the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Racing, Gaming, and Wagering – explained why New York can’t afford to cut its sports betting market in half:
“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.”
His efforts produced overwhelming passage within the state Senate, but Addabbo’s bill stalled out in the General Assembly amidst constitutionality concerns raised by Governor Andrew Cuomo.
As a result, when New York’s first sportsbooks went live one month later, the industry was limited to commercially and/or tribally operated brick-and-mortar casinos only.
If at First You Don’t Succeed…
With a new legislative session in full swing – and New York leaders preparing to finalize the state’s budget framework by March 31 – Addabbo is hoping to leverage worries over the looming $6 billion deficit to guide online / mobile betting over the finish line.
As he told WBEN-930 Radio on Wednesday, Addabbo believes the state’s budget issues should provide ample motivation for the Governor to reverse course in his campaign against online / mobile wagers:
“We have a severe deficit in this year’s budget and the picture doesn’t get better fiscally next year.
I’ve been through these tough budgets … These large deficits you don’t cut your way out.
You need revenue. Here it is. It’s not assumed revenue, it’s guaranteed revenue when we do mobile sports betting.”
For his part, Cuomo appears to be entrenched in his opposition to allowing sportsbook apps to operate statewide over the internet. During a speech delivered in January to outline his 2021 fiscal year executive budget proposal, Cuomo directly referenced the complete lack of additional gambling-generated revenue:
“There’s no gimmicks. There’s no 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.”
Assembly Reverses Course After Stalling Online / Mobile Last Year
Following last session’s curious lack of progress within the General Assembly on Addabbo’s online / mobile bill – one which proved to be extremely popular in the Senate – key members of the former chamber have had a change of heart.
In the wake of Cuomo’s budget address rejection, state assemblyman and Chairman of the Committee on Racing and Wagering Gary Pretlow (D-89) made a direct plea to the Governor while speaking to Legal Sports Report:
“Give New Yorkers the opportunity to bet on their favorite sporting events.
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.”
Pretlow also put his argument in more pragmatic terms during his interview with Legal Sports Report, revealing a strategy linking expanded sports betting to crucial education funding that no sensible state executive would seek to block:
“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.”