Mobile Sports Betting Agreement Nearing Finish Line In New York State?

Political hurdles remain as the annual budget deadline looms. One proposal would cut out Central New York from mobile wagering.
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After several years of fruitless attempts, supporters of bringing mobile sports betting to New York State are in the late stages of negotiations with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s staff to try to work out final details.

State Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Queens), and Assemblyman Gary Pretlow (D-Yonkers) have gotten their respective, identical bills passed by their chambers — with a provision for 14 mobile betting “skins,” or partners.

That would be two skins for each of the state’s four upstate commercial casinos, with the state’s three federally recognized tribes — who are also in the casino business — getting two skins apiece as well.

But Cuomo has resisted such efforts, insisting that he wants the state to keep the revenues for itself.

“This is not a money maker for private interests,” Cuomo said during his annual January State of the Budget address. “We want the actual revenue from the sports betting.”

Several officials familiar with the process say that if any mobile sports betting law is passed this weekend — the annual budget was due yesterday for the start of the state’s fiscal year — it will be on Cuomo’s terms.

Empire State to follow Granite State?

It is not yet clear if that will mean a “New Hampshire model” — where DraftKings runs sports betting through the state’s lottery business and turns over half the revenues to the state — or if there might be multiple vendors chosen to offer mobile gambling on behalf of the state.

Neighboring New Jersey and Pennsylvania already have legal, mobile sports betting, with billions wagered annually in each state. A portion of that “handle” — estimated at 20% to 25% in New Jersey – comes from New Yorkers crossing the border to place their bets.

Each of the state’s casinos are 90 miles or more north of the New York City area, making it far more convenient for gamblers to simply cross the Hudson River by car, bus, train, bicycle, or on foot.

The “gold rush” of sports betting outside of Nevada arose quickly in the wake of the May 14, 2018 U.S. Supreme Court’s voiding of the Professional Amateur and Sports Protection Act of 1992.

A previous New York State law already made sports betting at casinos legal immediately upon the change in the federal law that had granted Nevada a near monopoly on such gambling. But adding mobile to the mix is something Cuomo had long resisted until he began to hint otherwise in December, and before laying out his concept in January.

By the time the mobile sports betting market reaches maturity in a few years, Cuomo’s staff has estimated the state could garner $500 million in annual tax revenue.

Not a done deal, it appears

Reports on Friday afternoon suggested that a deal may not be reached by the time of a “drop dead” deadline tentatively set for Monday so that the state — currently without revenue — does not have to withhold salaries of state employees.

The plot also had thickened on Thursday when word percolated out about a possible “blacked-out” region of the state for mobile sports betting. That would be due to the Oneida Indian Nation’s 2013 deal with the state granting it a “tribal exclusivity zone” for gambling that extends across 10 counties in the center of the state.

The affected counties would be Cayuga, Chenango, Cortland, Herkimer, Lewis, Madison, Oneida, Onondaga, Oswego and Otsego. That includes more than a million residents in Syracuse, Utica, and a host of smaller cities and towns.

Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon and Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente released a joint statement on Thursday night:

“Excluding large parts of Upstate New York from participating in mobile sports betting is not acceptable … Having a statewide policy that cuts out Central New York is unfair and must be fixed. As Albany leaders like to say, ‘we are one state’ — that means we need policies that every New Yorker can benefit from — not policies that cut out our constituents.”

If mobile sports betting is not part of the pending budget , it’s theoretically possible for a separate bill to become law during a brief period in June — but even the usually optimistic Addabbo has acknowledged that isn’t likely.

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