One would have to wonder what New York Governor Andrew Cuomo must be more worried and concerned about trying to fall asleep at night. The impending investigation over allegations he underestimated nursing home deaths during our COVID-19 period. Or his growing list of young women accusing him of sexual harassment, threatening his position of maintaining his role as Governor of New York?
Along with his general duties of running the state, it would seem that pending legislation to permit online sports wagering for the Empire State would be way down the priority list. Or would it? Facing a huge budget deficit, the state desperately needs ancillary funding and like other US states, turning to gamble is a sure-fire way to plug a few holes.
New York has maintained legal in-person onsite sports betting at four upstate commercial casinos, but a major gap in online wagering has left the state far behind other states, especially bordering New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, in both sports betting handles and revenue.
A weekend in the New York City area will see many bettors pouring over to the Meadowlands complex to enjoy the nation’s most popular onsite sports wagering facility. More embarrassing, is witnessing cars coming over the George Washington Bridge, past the geofencing barrier protecting New Jersey to legally wager sports online. In the past three months, more than 92% of all wagers in New Jersey have been made online with New York greatly helping to feed the handle.
Initially, Cuomo firmly held out against many legislators’ dissenting opinions for several years against online wagering. Approximately six months ago, he reversed his stance, saying he wanted online sports and for betting to be run like the state lottery while lawmakers seriously prefer multiple operators and an open market.
In January, the New York State Gaming Commission released a study conducted by the Spectrum Gaming Group to consider the prospect of online wagering based on the four NY commercial casinos.
The detailed 358-page analysis estimated brick-and-mortar retail sportsbooks along with online sports wagering could potentially generate $816 million to $1.14 billion in annual gross gaming revenue (GGR) for New York. In addition, statewide tribal sports wagering projects could produce anywhere between $72 million to $99 million per year in revenue.
During January, the four upstate New York sportsbooks combined accounted for $3.6 million, which is a state record but extremely minimal considering the potential of what online wagering could produce. Even if the numbers forecasted by the report were not accurate, New York is losing millions of dollars every month they do not act.
Although chances seem “eventually” good that mobile sports wagering will be approved for New York the feeling is Cuomo’s current woes are a bit of a distraction.
The current priority of passing a New York State budget of $60 billion in the deficit over two years along with the worsening scandals and pressure that surround the governor may cause a delay. Many legislators believe a bill will be passed but few in Albany can circle a date when.
Next week online sports betting begins a more serious stage when the state budget negotiations get underway. State Budget Director Robert Mujina commented, “The Governor is proposing the state could get $500 million a year instead of $50 million and that money would go into the state budget.”
Other legislators wisely point out that not only is New York losing out to competition in New Jersey and Pennsylvania but perhaps the greatest percentage coming from illegal offshore gambling, in operation for several years.
If we have learned anything about Gov. Cuomo through his nightly headlines involving the nursing home allegations and sexual harassment scandal, is that he confidently sticks to his beliefs. His non-bending plan is to use the state lottery commission to license specific gambling sites that would agree to share the most revenue with the state. An open market, such as one linked to casinos and preferred by other states is poisonous for the governor. Says Cuomo: “I’m not here to make casinos a lot of money. I’m here to raise funds for the state.”
His adversaries in opinion have been led by online betting’s principal advocates in the legislature, Queens Senator Joseph Addabbo, chairman of the New York Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee in the Upper House, along with Bronx Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow, who chairs the New York Assembly’s Committee on Racing and Wagering.
Addabbo and Pretlow have previously introduced legislation together that would open the market to up to 14 licenses with two skins per license. It would include pro sports venues, racetracks, and New York OTBs for a share of the sports wagering pie.
Their bill, Senate Bill S1183, sets the state tax rate at 8.5 percent. However, that rate, like other portions of the bill, is open to negotiation according to Senator Addabbo. He said:
I think that’s all part of the budget negotiations. How many skins and the license fee and the tax rate that is all part and parcel of the budget negotiations. It’s all part of the discussions that we’re going to have, and that’s where we’ll have to come to some agreement.
Still. Gov. Cuomo wants the state to be in more control. He wants the lottery-type system, allowing the state to derive more of the revenue. An approach similar to what Rhode Island, Montana, New Hampshire, Delaware, and Oregon have implemented.
In retort, Addabbo indicated those states are not comparable as all combined have a smaller population than New York.
The issue of online gambling for New York is likely to be decided over the next few months. The largest, most crucial decision regarding its fate may be “who” will inevitably decide it. Rumors persist every day of Governor Cuomo potentially being impeached with calls for a hearing intensifying. That would delay any possible decision along with other priority issues for the state.
And no, I am not aware of any prop betting odds being available for Gov. Cuomo’s impeachment nor the likelihood for legalized online wagering coming to New York in 2021 at this moment.
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Larry Gibbs is both a seasoned journalist and a respected online gaming industry consultant. His wry commentary & sharp analysis have appeared in numerous top gaming and sports wagering publications. He has also served as Vice President of US Gaming Services, a marketing research organization with 15 years of experience in US online wagering. He has spoken at noted gaming industry conferences including G2E, GiGSE, and NCLGS.
Email: [email protected]
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