Cuomo to Endorse NY Mobile Sports Betting in Policy Proposals

Cuomo to Endorse NY Mobile Sports Betting in Policy Proposals
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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is finally all in.

The 2021 New York State Assembly and Senate legislative session opened Wednesday and Cuomo will make legal online sports betting NY a central part of his policy proposals in a much-anticipated State of the State address on Monday, according to the New York Daily News.

Mobile sports betting will be one part of the governor’s efforts to lessen the financial impacts of the current COVID-19 crisis, the report said.

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“New York has the potential to be the largest sports wagering market in the United States, and by legalizing online sports betting we aim to keep millions of dollars in tax revenue here at home, which will only strengthen our ability to rebuild from the COVID-19 crisis,” Cuomo said in a statement to the Daily News.

States are facing major budget shortfalls because of the coronavirus pandemic and sports betting is seen as one way to slice into the deficits.

New York State Sen. Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr.-D (15th State District and chairman of the Committee on Racing, Gaming and Wagering), who has sponsored sports betting legislation in the past, issued a statement Wednesday:

“It is encouraging to hear that Governor Cuomo will embrace mobile sports betting in his State of the State Address. By legalizing mobile sports betting, New York will be able to reap the benefits of the economic gains it will create and help the state rebuild after the COVID-19 pandemic, in addition to increasing educational funding, addressing illegal activity in the state and assisting those with gaming addictions. I look forward to working with the Governor and his office to efficiently implement mobile sports betting for the people of New York.”

Questions Arise from Cuomo News Conference

Later in the day, though, some of the enthusiasm for Cuomo's embrace was tempered during a news conference, where the governor said that "we want to do sports betting the way the state runs the lottery. Where the state gets the revenues. Many states have done sports betting but they basically allow casinos to run their own gambling operations. That makes a lot of money for the casinos but makes minimal money for the state. I’m not here to make casinos a lot of money. I’m here to raise funds for the state. So we have a different mode for sports betting.”

State budget director Robert Mujica elaborated on Cuomo's comments, but questions still remain about what mobile sports betting will look like in New York.

"There are a few states that have done it a different way, where the state contracts with the private sector who runs the sportsbooks but the state ends up with the majority of what is left over after everything is returned to the bettors. So the difference between the two estimates would be between the state making somewhere in the neighborhood of $50 million dollars a year versus $500 million dollars a year," Mujica said. "So the way the governor is proposing in and will advance is so the state can get up to $500 million a year instead of $50 million and then that money will go to the state budget.

"Otherwise for the bettors, it is seamless and it is exactly the same. The only difference is the state gets the money versus others. That's the proposal which you will see when the governor puts out his executive budget."

Cuomo Brought Up Sports Betting Last Month

In mid-December, sports betting proponents got an early Christmas present when Cuomo said during a news conference that sports betting was a way to raise revenue:

“Are there other ways to get revenue? How about marijuana? How about sports betting? So, if the legislature wants to do the budget now, we can do that.”

It now seems mobile sports betting in the Empire State is a strong possibility with Cuomo’s backing. In the past, he did everything he could to hold it up, repeatedly saying that a constitutional amendment was needed.

Just the four words, “How about sports betting?” were enough reason for optimism in New York, which has seen its sports bettors flock to New Jersey to place their wagers and help drive that state to record-setting handle and revenue each month.

The gross gaming revenue in New York from November sports betting had a very modest increase at $2.62 million, but it was similar to October’s total and well behind New Jersey’s $50 million in revenue in November.

November in New York marked the second straight full month of operation for all four commercial casinos since the coronavirus pandemic forced them to close in mid-March. All four re-opened on Sept. 9 with heavy COVID-19 protocols in place.

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New Jersey topped $900 million in total sports betting handle in November, smashing its own national record set last month and nearing $1 billion for a single month. A recent industry survey found that nearly 20% of New Jersey’s sports wagering revenue comes from New York residents who cross into the Garden State to place wagers.

Sportsbooks Would Need Casino Partner

Sports betting is only legal in-person at four upstate New York casinos. While the governor has argued in the past that a new constitutional amendment would be needed before online sports betting could be legalized, his proposal will require mobile sports operators to be licensed by the state and partnered with a ‎licensed gaming facility, the Daily News report said.

The proposal seems to follow legislation that Addabbo brought to the table last year. The proposal would place servers running the online operations at upstate casinos with approved physical sportsbooks, which should be allowed under current NY gambling rules and regulations.

The New York State Gaming Commission will be able to request proposals to offer mobile sports wagering in the state, according to the Daily News. The commission will also expand existing integrity programs to ensure any entity operating mobile gaming apps implement safeguards against abuses and addiction by individuals.

Some of the biggest operators are already aligned with casinos in the state. DraftKings New York and del Lago Resort Casino in Waterloo; FanDuel Sportsbook New York and Tioga Downs Casino Resort in Nichols; BetRivers New York Sportsbook and Rivers Casino in Schenectady; and Caesars New York has ties to three tribal casinos.

Gaming stocks that are publicly traded, such as DraftKings, Penn National Gaming, Caesars and MGM, were up in early Wednesday trading.