The state of New York may be home to one of the biggest financial centres in the world, but the vast majority of gambling still takes place in the banks. The state is less restrictive than most, though, and the laws on both online and physical gaming in the state are rapidly changing, largely thanks to the efforts of state governor Andrew Cuomo.
At the moment, gamblers residing in New York State can bet freely at five Native American casinos, as well as nine "racinos" - intriguing race track / casino hybrids that contain a number of video lottery terminals. Online gambling, however, is a much more murky area. Unlike New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware, there are currently no laws expressly allowing citizens to gamble online, with the exception of horse racing - residents and visitors can bet on races remotely through one of the state's five off-track betting companies.
While there are no clear rules for online gambling, lawmakers for the state once believed that the guidelines for brick and mortar casinos extend to their online counterparts, as was illustrated by what came to be known as the “Black Friday” event for online poker. This involved US Attorney Preet Bharara targeting a number of online poker websites by combining the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) with a New York statute that makes illegal gambling a Class A felony. Over the second half of 2011, the domain names and bank accounts of a number of poker sites offering their services to US players were seized, and a number of executives working for the likes of Poker Stars and Full Tilt Poker were arrested and indicted for various offences including bank fraud and money laundering.
Almost a year after the “Black Friday” indictments, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo made the case for the state constitution to be changed to loosen the regulation on physical casinos. His argument, one which suggested New York state was in denial about the pervasive, underground gambling scene prominent within its borders, came up against stiff competition from the tribal casinos, who could see no benefit to the introduction of private casinos, and who believed they were being left out of talks altogether. Competition from other casinos would impact on any agreement New York State holds with the tribal casinos about exclusivity to certain areas, including the popular Niagara Falls. Despite these contentious issues, Cuomo signed a bill identifying areas for potential casino expansion in July 2013, and residents overwhelmingly supported a proposition to develop seven casinos the following November - bidding for the new licences is expected to take place throughout 2014.
New York State’s two legal online gambling activities – the state lottery and horse racing – are naturally very popular throughout its nine racinos, while those looking for more traditional gambling activities can satisfy themselves at the Native American offerings.
New York City alone is home to a number of huge sporting franchises, including the New York Giants and the Jets, the Rangers, the Yankees, the Metz and the Knicks. Sports betting is technically illegal in New York, but many sports fans still enjoy gambling on their teams online via foreign based bookmakers.
While the debate over both physical and online casinos rages on, New York State has been left behind by neighbouring New Jersey, with the smaller state enacting a celebrated piece of legislation that legalises the majority of online gambling activities within its borders. The recent bill signed by Governor Cuomo, however, proves that the state's lawmakers are willing to go along with his view that expansion of the gambling industry will create more jobs and lower taxes. New York is undoubtedly a key piece in the puzzle for those who advocate a change to the federal laws concerning online gambling, and those on both sides of the debate will be keeping a close eye on how things develop over the next few years.
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