Mobile Sports Betting Snubbed in New York State Budget After Assembly Refuses to Back It

Posted on: April 2, 2019, 03:56h. 

Last updated on: April 2, 2019, 03:56h.

New York State leaders reached agreement on a $175 billion budget Monday that Governor Andrew Cuomo described as the best of his tenure.

New York State budget
State Senator Joseph Addabbo (left) said this week he believes he has convinced Governor Andrew Cuomo (right) on mobile sports betting but the governor wanted enthusiasm from the Assembly, which was not forthcoming. (Image: Queens Politics)

But notably absent were revenues derived from the regulation of recreational marijuana – of which Cuomo is an enthusiastic supporter – and mobile sports betting – which State Senator Joseph Addabbo (D-15th) has spent the last few weeks encouraging the governor to take to his heart.

Cuomo has previously said he believes mobile sports betting would be unconstitutional, but in an interview with LegalSportsReport on Tuesday, Addabbo said he felt the governor had come around to his way of thinking.

They stopped talking about constitutionality and started talking about how they needed the Assembly on board,” Addabbo said. “The second conversation with the governor’s office was quite accepting of mobile sports wagering, but they said they didn’t see any enthusiasm from the Assembly.”

The Assembly has traditionally been the undoing of gambling expansion legislation in New York State and this proved to be no exception. While the Senate included language to authorize mobile betting in its budget proposal, the Assembly did not. And according to Addabbo, the governor wanted enthusiasm from both chambers.

Addabbo believes the omission from the means the state has left recurring revenues of $100 million “on the table” – a not insignificant chunk of its $2.3 billion budget deficit.

Constitutional Argument

New York voters legalized sports betting in 2013 at the same they approved an amendment to the constitution that authorized commercial gaming. Licenses were subsequently created for four upstate casinos, most of which opened in 2017.

The four casinos are expected to launch land-based sports books later this year, which will pave the way for tribal casinos to do so too. The governor’s office has said that anything beyond that would require another constitutional amendment by public referendum.

Addabbo and Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow (D-89th) have argued this needn’t be the case. They believe that because online betting would technically be taking place inside the casinos where the servers processing the bets would be located, it would not constitute an expansion of gambling.

Rhode Island recently passed a bill to authorize online betting under exactly the same premise.

“I believe based on our current language we have cleared the constitutionality issue,” Addabbo told iGaming Business last week.  “…If we are in any other part of the state, the bet is placed where it is received. I believe we have convinced the Governor of that point.”

Will New York Realize Its Potential?

New York has the population to quickly eclipse Nevada as America’s sports betting capital in terms of revenue, but without mobile it will never reach its full potential.

Addabbo and Pretlow have also introduced a standalone bill that would authorize mobile betting based at the four casinos but with other stakeholders acting as “affiliates” – but the Assembly remains a hurdle.

“I’m an eternal optimist,” Addabbo told LSR. “Even at the last minute, if I heard someone say we need $100 million somewhere I would say, ‘How about sports betting?’ Some of my colleagues were shocked we didn’t do it. They thought it was already in the budget.”