The jury’s out on whether New York State sports betting can be legalized before the end of the legislative session on June 20, but on Monday, it at least took a step in the right direction.

New York sports betting

New York State Assemblyman Gary Pretlow will be praying for a miracle that the legislature will agree to pass his bill within the next eight days. Meanwhile, there’s a new approach in California to legalizing sports betting. (Image: Mark Vergari/The Journal News)

State Assemblyman Gary Pretlow (D-89th) and State Senator John Bonacic (R-42nd) had both submitted similar-but-different bills to their respective chambers, but those differences have now been ironed out into identical, uniform legislation, which should grease the skids on the New York sports betting push.

Should the state get the job done within the next eight days, it will be seen as a victory for the sports leagues because this legislation includes their controversial “integrity fee” — a .25 cut of all bets placed on their games — although it calls it what it is, a royalty payment.

The fee has been soundly rejected by lawmakers in New Jersey and West Virginia, despite the leagues’ best lobbying efforts.

Needless to say, the leagues are eager for this particular legislation to pass before the session breaks and lawmakers have time to rethink their position.

Potential Hurdles

But with only just over a week left to go, the bills are a heavy lift. The language would authorize sports betting at the state’s four commercial casinos and would allow the participation of other gaming entities, including race tracks and tribal casinos, only through partnerships with these casinos.

Voters in New York State approved sports betting for the four commercial casinos in 2013, when they voted to change the constitution to legalize commercial casino gaming.

But the partnerships will prove unpalatable to the state’s other gaming interests, who will want to offer betting in their own rights.

Tribal operators are notoriously affronted by any kind gaming expansion that benefits commercial gaming ahead of their own operations, and lawmakers who represent their interests are unlikely to get behind this bill.

California Split

Meanwhile, across the country in California, similar tribal interests are blocking the route to legal, regulated sports betting.

California Nations Indian Gaming Association (CNIGA) recently said it would oppose sports betting unless the state does more to address the prevalence of banked card games at California’s card clubs, which it believes is an infringement of the tribes’ exclusivity on Class II gaming.

Assemblyman Adam Gray has a bill in the works that would ask voters to decide to change the state constitution to legalize sports betting, but this week a campaign emerged that prefers a more direct approach.

Fearing, possibly correctly, that the state’s powerful tribal operators will stall efforts to legalize sports betting in the legislature — just as they have done for many years with online poker — a group called “Californians for Sports Betting” has submitted a petition to the Attorney General’s Office.

If the petition is approved by the AG, it would need between 500,000 and 600,000 signatures to force a referendum that could legalize sports betting, which would likely be held in 2020.

The group declined to reveal its financial backers when it spoke to LegalSportsReport on Monday, but LSR strongly suspects the tribes’ old foes, the card clubs, are bankrolling the campaign.