Gaming Industry Donated $270K to New York Lawmakers Who Backed Failed Sports Betting Bill

Posted on: June 24, 2019, 11:40h. 

Last updated on: June 24, 2019, 11:40h.

The gaming industry gave more than a quarter of a million dollars in contributions to New York state politicians who supported a sports betting bill that ultimately failed to become law.

New York sports betting gaming industry
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was a gaming industry beneficiary during the state’s sports betting consideration. (Image: Drew Angerer/Getty)

Last week, the New York State Assembly adjourned its 2019 legislative session without passing Senate Bill 17 or its companion Assembly Bill A63113, legislation that would have authorized sports betting across the state. The dilemma facing lawmakers was whether they possessed the power to expand commercial gambling without voter approval.

During the back and forth deliberation, lobbyists representing the casinos invested in the state gave campaign contributions to politicians in an effort to woo them into endorsing SB 17 and AB63113. The New York Post uncovered $270,000 in relevant donations from the gaming industry.

Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) received $25,000 from the owners of del Lago Resort & Casino in Seneca County, and another $25,000 from the parent company that operates Resorts World in Queens.

Voters backed a ballot referendum in 2013 that authorized four upstate casinos, and set the regulatory framework to govern sports betting should a change come to the federal law. That happened in May 2018 when the Supreme Court repealed the longstanding ban that limited full-scale sports betting everywhere except Nevada.

Sports Betting Issues

The 2013 vote gave authorization to the four upstate casinos (del Lago, Rivers, Resorts World Catskills, Tioga Downs) to accept sports bets at their brick-and-mortar facilities. Tribal casinos also gained the right to take wagers on sporting events.

Downstate racetrack “racinos,” which includes Resorts World New York City and MGM’s Empire City, aren’t allowed to operate sportsbooks according to the 2013 referendum. The vote additionally didn’t call for the tribal casinos or upstate venues to operate mobile betting.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) argued that sanctioning mobile sports betting requires a constitutional ballot referendum, which can take as long as three years. Cuomo agreed.

The struggling casinos desperately want to tap into the entire New York population – the fourth most populated state in the nation.

SB 17 passed the senate with a 57-5 vote, but stalled in the lower chamber. The bill would have required casinos to pay a $12 million licensing fee, with gross sports betting revenue taxed at 8.52 percent on land-based win, and 12.5 percent on mobile income.

Money Trail

State Senator Joseph Addabbo (D-District 15) – the primary author of the senate sports betting bill – collected $13,760 from companies hoping New York would expand sports gambling.

Numerous other state lawmakers took anywhere from $1,000 to $1,500 from the gaming industry companies wishing to persuade lawmakers into passing the mobile sports betting component.

Sky-high campaign contributions from companies seeking favorable determinations from the governor create a perception the government is for sale,” Alex Camarda of Reinvent Albany told the Post. Reinvent Albany is a nonprofit that seeks to hold the New York state government accountable and transparent.

The New York sports betting discussion is expected to resume in January when the Assembly convenes for its 2020 session.