Politics

New York Governor Cuomo Hints at Change of Heart on Mobile Sports Betting

New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) has offered fresh hope to supporters of mobile sports betting in the Empire State.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, seen here, revealed that mobile sports betting was on his radar at a press conference in Albany this week. (Image: Spencer Platt/Getty)

At a press conference in Albany, N.Y. on Wednesday, Cuomo said despite a $15 billion budget deficit, he wouldn’t consider raising taxes for the super-rich. At least not until next year, when he believes a Biden administration could deliver a new stimulus package for state and local government.

I think it’s smarter to do [the budget] in February when we have the federal money, so we don’t have to cut schools, hospitals, etc.,” he said. “We can’t lose essential workers in essential organizations, especially with what they’re doing now.”

In the meantime, Cuomo said there are other ways to make money.

“How about marijuana? How about sports betting?” he asked.

Constitutional Quandary

Cuomo means mobile sports betting. New York launched legal land-based sports betting in 2019, but only at its four commercial casinos. The governor has previously resisted calls to legalize mobile because he has said this would require a public vote to change the constitution.

New York voters actually authorized sports betting at commercial casinos when they voted to approve the casinos themselves at a 2013 referendum, contingent on a change in federal law. But this only covered land-based betting, Cuomo has said.

Supporters of a mobile sports betting market have argued this is not the case. Provided a mobile operator partner with one of the four land-based casinos and bases its servers on-site, they argue, it can legally offer mobile sports betting across the state.

Now, faced with the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, this appears to be an argument Cuomo is at least prepared to listen to. He could even write mobile sports betting into his forthcoming budget plan.

Mobile Sports Betting Still on for 2020?

Neighbor New Jersey quickly became the US market leader in sports betting by embracing mobile. In November alone, the Garden State pulled in $50.6 million on a record handle of $931.6 million. Of that sum, 93.6 percent ($872.1 million) was wagered via digital channels. New York would easily eclipse this.

It has been estimated that around 20 percent of New Jersey’s handle comes from New Yorkers crossing the border to gamble.

State Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D) and Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow have long championed mobile sports betting in their respective chambers. They’ve said they don’t want to wait for the budget deadline in April 2021, and can’t rely on the legislature being in session early in the year because of the coronavirus pandemic. This is why they say want to get something done before the end of 2020.

They’re cutting it fine, but Pretlow believes it can still happen before the end of this year.

“It can all come together very quickly,” Pretlow told Play NY last week. “I’m pretty sure the governor and Department of Budget already have a bill put together with what they need. Then we just have to fill in the blanks. It can happen within a week.”

Philip Conneller

Global and Tribal Gaming, Casino Business, International Crime, UK Gaming---- In Philip Conneller’s seven years with Casino.org, he has covered the gaming industry from Las Vegas to Macau and everything in between. Previously the original features editor for poker’s Bluff US and editor for Bluff Europe (which he helped launch), he has also written for iGaming Business, eGaming Review, and numerous other industry news sites. His news stories for Casino.org have been linked by the Washington Post, the Daily Mail, People Magazine, and Jimmy Fallon's Tonight Show, among many others. Philip lives outside of London with his wife and children, and frequently travels to the EU. Email: philip.conneller@casino.org

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Philip Conneller