New York Lawmakers in Agreement on Mobile Sports Betting, Budget Docs Show

Posted on: March 14, 2021, 05:56h. 

Last updated on: March 15, 2021, 01:09h.

With two-and-a-half weeks left until the 2022 fiscal year starts in New York, lawmakers in both legislative chambers unveiled their budget bills for the upcoming year this weekend. It appears leaders have found at least some common ground on mobile sports betting.

New York sports betting
New York state Sen. Joseph Addabbo speaks at a 2018 Senate Education Committee hearing. Over the weekend, his proposals for mobile sports betting and downstate resort casinos have been included in budget proposals considered by lawmakers. (Image: NYSenate.Gov)

There’s an agreement that casinos will be able to partner with two licensed mobile platforms, or skins. In addition, both the Assembly and Senate plans allow the state’s Class III tribal casinos to participate as well. Both sides also agree to tax sportsbook revenue from mobile betting at 12 percent, as opposed to the 8.5 percent rate the retail books pay.

Each licensed sportsbook would also pay a one-time fee of $12 million.

The consensus there shouldn’t be much of a surprise. Earlier this year, Assemblyman Gary Pretlow, D-Mount Vernon, and Senator Joseph Addabbo, D-Queens, filed companion sports betting bills. Both men also chair the gaming committees in their respective chambers.

The multiple skins agreement also does not come as a surprise in the wake of the recent agreement between Penn National and Rivers Casino to secure access for Barstool Sportsbook, as well as the one Golden Nugget Online Gaming reached with Tioga Downs.

Addabbo told a month ago he was confident mobile sports betting could launch this year.

Senate Pushing for Downstate Casinos

While the bills see eye-to-eye on mobile sports betting, there are differences in respect to gaming in other parts of their spending plans.

The Senate’s budget includes a provision to expedite granting the three unissued licenses for gaming resorts in downstate New York. The inclusion of downstate casinos in the bill would potentially open the door for six more sports betting licenses.

It’s also an issue Addabbo has been pressing for years. The pandemic and the impact it’s had on New York City and the surrounding area has helped bring it back again.

Neighboring states have authorized forms of gaming that are siphoning New York state dollars and travel industry-derived revenue to other out-of-state markets,” the document states. “Simultaneously, as a result of the COVID-19 emergency, state and local revenues have been devastated. This is particularly alarming, given the potential effect on the state’s education funding.”

The issue, which has the opportunity to create hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue for the state, isn’t the only difference between the chambers’ plans. The Assembly’s bill includes language regarding the legalization of marijuana, something Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) pushed for in his initial proposal.

Cuomo has been a proponent of not issuing downstate casino licenses until 2023, which was the state’s initial plan. The thought was to give upstate resorts a head start so they could establish themselves before resorts in New York City or its surrounding area opened.

The Cuomo Factor

Speaking of Cuomo, the governor made a few headlines in the past month, and has pretty much seen his popularity ratings invert because of sexual harassment and nursing home death scandals. Nearly 60 Democratic state lawmakers have called on him to resign. So, too, have other prominent New York Democrats, including US Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, US Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

He said Friday he won’t kowtow to “cancel culture,” rebuffing calls to resign. Instead, he’s urging people to let a recently started investigation conclude before making judgments.

While Cuomo’s power is not what it was even weeks ago, he still wields the veto pen. His proposal for sports betting varied significantly from legislators, as he’s sought a more state-run approach. State law gives him line-item veto power, and it would require a two-thirds majority to override. Democrats have that on their own.

Also, with the state in line to receive more than $12 billion in Rescue Plan funding, that reduces the need for lawmakers to look for new sources of revenue. Those are still on the table, because New York will need revenue streams moving forward. However, the budget plans show lawmakers aren’t buying Cuomo’s plan on sports betting.

Bottom-line analysis: The chances for mobile sports betting look good, as lawmakers appear unified on a plan. With the Senate keeping downstate casinos in play, that will come down to negotiations and possible lobbying from gaming companies like MGM Resorts International, which operates the Empire City Racino in Yonkers just north of New York City. MGM would love the chance to turn Yonkers into a full-fledged casino, with table games and sports betting. So, too, would Resorts World at its Aqueduct racino. A weakened Cuomo may not be able to get – or stop – what he chooses this time around.