Updating Sports Betting Legislation in NY and MI
The likelihood of lawmakers adding online / mobile sportsbooks to New York’s regulated marketplace by next year has significantly dimmed over the last two months.
And in Michigan, the state’s longtime champion of sports betting legalization has told industry media outlets that the Governor has cut off all communication regarding his bill.
Online / Mobile Integration in 2020 Could be DOA
New York’s first legal sportsbooks opened for business back in July, with both commercial and tribal casinos in the upstate region launching brick and mortar bet shops.
A bill which would’ve added online / mobile sportsbooks was passed overwhelmingly by the New York Senate one month earlier, but it stalled out in the state’s General Assembly without ever coming up for a vote. That dead end was prompted by Governor Andrew Cuomo, who believes the state’s Constitution calls for voter approval before any revisions to gambling laws can be enacted.
Following the successful opening of in-person sportsbooks, state senator Joseph Addabbo (D-15) – the Chair of the Racing and Gaming and Wagering Committee who sponsored the online / mobile betting bill – tasked the New York State Gaming Commission (NYSGC) with studying the additions merits. Given the thriving online / mobile wagering market in neighboring New Jersey – where 80 percent of bets are placed over the internet – Addabbo hoped that study would provide the Governor with sufficient data to change his mind.
In an interview with Legal Sports Report, Addabbo added further context to New York’s urgent need for online / mobile integration:
“We have seen fans flock to our upstate casinos with the start of football season, but I believe our state is still losing out on significant revenue and educational funding because we do not have mobile sports betting.
Many NY residents still find it easier to go over to New Jersey to place bets, rather than going to one of our four upstate casinos that have a sports betting lounge.”
The NYSGC set a deadline of August 12 to choose a firm to conduct the study, but the calendar has since flipped without any progress on that front. The study was scheduled to begin on September 1, with a final report delivered to the NYSGC by December 31, but these deadlines will obviously not be met.
Adding fuel to the fire consuming New York’s chances to bring its sports betting industry up to speed, the Wall Street Journal reports lawmakers are considering a move to cut next year’s legislative session short.
Michigan Governor Remains Mute on Sports Betting Bill
Speaking to Legal Sports Report, state representative Brandt Iden (R-61) revealed that Governor Gretchen Whitmer has cut off all contact regarding the sports betting bill he introduced earlier this month:
“The governor’s office is just not communicating about this now.
The governor is not communicating about the budget either at this point in time.
The governor’s office is just not communicating, and that’s been part of the issue from Day One.”
Whitmer has blocked two gambling related bills floated by Iden this year, one pertaining to sports betting and another covering online / mobile casino and poker games. In the case of sports betting, Iden’s bill calls for an 8 percent tax on gross revenue, while Whitmer prefers a 15 percent rate. Additionally, Iden’s bill would require a $200,000 initial licensing fee, but Whitmer favors a $1 million payment.
With the state currently facing the threat of a looming government shutdown, Brandt Iden told Legal Sports Report that Whitmer’s unwillingness to even discuss his bills makes them a longshot at best:
“She walked away from the negotiation, so that makes it difficult to get her thoughts on any potential for sports betting or iGaming if she’s not at the table.
I’m trying to ensure that we look at all possible angles and options to get this done.
The budget makes the most sense to me because this is new revenue, but it’s difficult without the administration there to get their thoughts on how they want this structured.”
Thus, it appears the governors of New York and Michigan are the main stumbling blocks for legalized sports betting in their respective states. In Joseph Addabbo’s case, he faces a complicated set of vested interests and a government who wants to let New Yorkers vote to approve any such bill. Such obstacles are substantial, but Michigan might be a trickier situation. Brandt Iden faces the natural hostility that any lawmaker in the opposition party faces, as the governor is less likely to give a legislator from the other party a legislative win. In either case, the NY and MI sports betting bills face long odds in 2020.