Conference Reiterates New York Sports Betting Challenges

Conference Reiterates New York Sports Betting Challenges

A conference ostensibly designed to discuss horse racing issues has underscored the difficulties facing sports betting implementation in New York.

The Albany Times Union reports state regulators are still evaluating rules for sports betting at four privately run casinos in upstate New York. An implementation timeframe has still not been announced, said state Sen. John Bonascic.

More significantly, Bonascic said widespread, online sports betting is even further away.

Home to America’s largest city and media market, New York has received outsized attention from gambling stakeholders. Industry observer project New York would soon eclipse the Nevada market and could exceed $10 billion in annual wagers within five years. Additionally, legalization would not only open the market to more than 20 million people within the state alone, it could have a domino effect on other states in the region and across the country.

The conference reminded gambling supporters how far New York sports betting still has to go.

Sports Betting Focus Transcends New York

Sports betting dominated conversations in Saratoga Springs at the annual Saratoga Institute on Equine, Racing and Gaming Law Conference Aug. 7 as lawmakers and gambling industry observers reconvened at the event for the first time since the Supreme Court struck down the federal ban on sports wagering. Six states are positioned to take bets before the end of the year and a dozen or more could be set to do by the end of 2019.

Attendees reportedly turned their attention to the next wave of states that may legalize sports betting, most notably in the state hosting the conference.

New York is among a handful of states with some type of legalized sports betting on its books, even though it hasn’t yet taken a bet.

In order to compete with Native American casinos in upstate New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo pushed for what became four casino licenses for state-regulated facilities in that region of the state. These four facilities (Del Lago Resort and Casino in Tyre; Resorts World Catskills in Kiamesha Lake; Rivers Casino and Resort in Schenectady; and Tioga Downs & Casino in Nichols) were in 2013 legalized to not just offer traditional Las Vegas-style games but to take sports bets, pending regulatory approval.

That approval process has faced months of delays, most notably by Cuomo’s argument that the 2013 bill he signed into law allowing the casinos actually didn’t include sports betting permission. He has argued that further legislative is still needed to authorize sports wagering.

Speaking at the conference, state regulators said they were still progressing as if the law did allow the four casinos to take bets. The governor’s concerns have further mired the process, leaving gambling stakeholders and lawmakers alike confused – and the Empire State without its best bet at a legal sports bet before the end of the calendar year.

New York Legislation Flounders

Cuomo and state lawmakers had hoped to overcome the legalization obstacles with a larger bill that would open up the state’s Native American casinos, racetracks and online operators to take bets. That effort stalled in the 2018 legislative session and lawmakers adjourned without further action. The governor would need to call a special session to reconvene lawmakers in Albany to discuss the bill, a prospect that seems all but impossible now.

New York is facing the same issues like taxation and availability that have at times stalled other state legislatures, even in those with widespread bipartisan support. Unlike most other legislatures, New York is still weighing laws that grant a portion of betting revenue to leagues, which they call “integrity fees.” The leagues argue a fee is necessary to help protect the games from outside influences. Lawmakers in other gambling states have rejected that assertion and have sought to keep as much revenue as possible in their own coffers and out of payments to the leagues.

Elected officials are also having partisan troubles In a state with one-party control of both houses of the legislature and the governor’s mansion.

States that passed sports betting laws typically did so with bipartisan support. In New York, partisan affiliation has been a hindrance, according to Assemblyman Gary Pretlow. He told the Times Union that the bill has enough support in the State Assembly to pass but it lacks enough votes from Democrats. Because it isn’t supported by enough Democrats to pass without any Republican support, Pretlow said the bill has been denied a vote before the entire floor in the Democratic-controlled chamber.

Lawmakers have also said Cuomo’s reluctance toward sports betting has further derailed the process. Looking ahead to re-election in November and with a primary challenge this summer, Cuomo has focused on his campaign, critics say, and not potentially divisive issues like sports betting.

Sports betting proponents are hopeful the end of election season, and another chance with state lawmakers in the 2018 session, could help get the laws back on track. In the meantime, other states are taking advantage of New York’s struggles.

Neighbors Rack In Sports Betting Dollars

Much of New York’s push for legalized wagering came from competition threats from its southern neighbor. New Jersey led the legal challenge to the federal ban on sports betting and took its first bet several weeks after the supreme court struck down the ban. This has reinvigorated Atlantic City, which has long been a gambling destination for New Yorkers, and sparked renewed interest at Meadowlands Racetrack in East Rutherford, just a few miles away from Manhattan.

New England could also jump ahead in the sports betting race. Rhode Island will take its first bet Oct. 1 and Connecticut, Massachusetts and even possible New Hampshire may not be much further behind. New York may not embrace the revenue opportunities of sports betting as quickly as these other states but it may need to do so sooner than later so it doesn’t lose dollars across its borders.

Interested in learning more about the current US sports betting landscape? Check out our latest Gamblecast explaining everything you need to know about US sports betting:

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