Many residents of New York are eager for news that their state might pass a new sports betting law that will bring a mobile component to the mix.
Assemblyman Gary Pretlow, a Democrat whose district includes Yonkers, was asked at the Betting on Sports America conference in the Meadowlands on Thursday what odds he would put on such a development.
“If I were a bookie? +110,” he replied. So he’s saying the state is only a slight underdog. “I haven’t yet convinced my conference in the Assembly to pass it. I have 74 [colleagues] in favor, so I just need two more to get it on the floor for a vote.”
Pretlow also said that he expects the state Senate to hold a hearing on sports betting in the next two weeks.
Cuomo still a no-go
But — well, there are a couple of “buts.” First, Pretlow said that he has been asked not to participate in that hearing, “and I believe that came from on high,” he said, meaning from Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office.
“But I’m pretty sure I’ll go anyway,” he said. “I’ve been in office for 26 years, they can’t tell me what to do.”
More importantly, “The governor is still pushing back — hard,” Pretlow said. “For whatever reason, I don’t know the reason. But he doesn’t want to do this just yet. In the future, I’m pretty sure that he’ll see the light.
“I’ve tried to inform him that over $10 billion is being bet in New York State right now, illegally, and if we can capture just half of that, it would be beneficial to the state. But I have my work cut out for me.
“For whatever the reason, the executive branch is moving very slowly. The legislation is written and ready to go.”
And just like that, the balloon has been burst, and the real odds of New Yorkers being able to skip that visit to the Meadowlands Racetrack — or that bicycle ride halfway across the George Washington Bridge — have been dashed.
‘I didn’t have the foresight to include mobile’
This issue dates back at least six years, to the 2013 law that authorized construction of up to four casinos in upstate New York.
“The New York state constitution forbids all gambling unless a law specifically includes it,” Pretlow said. “So when I drafted the casino license bill, I put in to allow sports betting should [a federal ban] be overturned. But I didn’t have the foresight to include mobile, and that’s where the issue is right now. As everyone knows, the bulk of the action comes from mobile sports betting.”
Pretlow, asked after the panel by US Bets if he was placing any online bets while visiting New Jersey on Thursday — at least as “research,” anyway — confided that he didn’t know how to place a bet on a mobile phone.
That’s not terribly surprising, given that Pretlow turns 70 in August.
Pretlow did suggest that he has made progress on one potential obstacle: negotiations with the Seneca and Oneida tribes over their right to sports betting.
Two proposals — one to allow mobile betting only in a tribe’s exclusive area and another to allow it statewide — have been made, with Pretlow saying he believes the latter will be preferred because the lack of a tax on the tribes would allow them to offer a more enticingly priced product to bettors throughout the state.
The most vexing issue for Pretlow is that Cuomo and state regulators continue to insist that a statewide referendum has to pass before mobile sports betting can be approved. That’s a process that would take three years or more.
Pretlow reiterated Thursday that he believes that allowing mobile sports betting is exactly akin to the state’s permission of online horse race betting.
But until Pretlow changes some minds, his plan seems destined to get left in the starting gate even after the legislature adjourns for the year in mid-June.
The integrity of integrity fees
The idea of leagues getting a much-mocked “integrity fee” as part of any state’s approval of sports betting lives on in New York.
“I changed the name from ‘integrity fee’ to ‘royalty,'” Pretlow said. “I think the leagues do supply the product, and they should be entitled to something since they will experience additional expenses.
“To keep the labor peace — peace in the world, peace in the Middle East — we threw them a bone,” added Pretlow, whose state is home to most of the major sports organizations that last year lost a six-year court battle to New Jersey seeking a continued nearly national ban on sports betting.
Pretlow also reiterated his claim that Madison Square Garden officials seek to have the option of sports betting at their facility.
Skin in the game
As for “skins,” New Jersey allows for nine Atlantic City casinos, three racetracks, and two former racetrack sites to each offer up to three partnerships in online betting.
New York? The current plan is for one skin for each of four upstate casinos that will kick off brick-and-mortar sports betting this summer. (The state’s native American casinos have their own compact that allows them to offer whatever gambling the state does.)
“I think the more the merrier,” said Pretlow, who added that he reduced the option from two skins per casino to one at the request of those casinos. “Whatever the market will bear. Whatever it is in New Jersey, it has succeeded.”