New York Mobile Sports Betting Deadline Looms As Cuomo Faces Uncertain Future
Posted on: August 8, 2021, 09:10h.
Last updated on: August 9, 2021, 11:47h.
As of now, the New York State Gaming Commission will still be accepting applications for statewide mobile sports betting until Monday afternoon at 4 pm. That much has not changed. But what might the future hold for the solicitation, especially since Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the individual who pushed for the format, may not even be in office by the time licenses are issued.
The firestorm of controversy that has surrounded Cuomo in recent months saw the flames swell higher in the past week. That’s as the state Attorney General Letitia James released a bombshell 165-page report that found sexual harassment complaints brought forward by 11 women to be credible. That report has led to renewed calls for Cuomo’s resignation or impeachment.
One of those who added their name to the list was state Sen. Joseph Addabbo Jr. Like Cuomo, he’s a Democrat from Queens and the son of a politician. The senior Joseph Addabbo served in Congress representing the New York borough for 25 years, including a period when Mario Cuomo was in his first term as governor.
The younger Addabbo, 57, said he’s known the 63-year-old governor since he was a kid, as their fathers were friends. But after James issued the report, Addabbo read it and then issued a statement saying for “the best interest of all New Yorkers,” Cuomo should step down.
I want him to succeed as a Queens person that I’ve known, again, most of my life,” Addabbo told Casino.org. “I wanted Andrew to succeed, and in totality of his record, he has succeeded in certain aspects… So, it’s not easy for me to call for his resignation. But again, I did it because it’s the right thing to do.”
Cuomo refused earlier calls to step down and did so again this past week. However, there is some movement happening, as late Sunday night Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa, Cuomo’s top aide, announced her resignation, according to media reports.
New York Mobile Sports Betting Recap
In January, Cuomo unveiled a plan that instead of giving casinos the opportunity to partner with mobile operators, called for one sportsbook or more to work directly with the state. The governor estimated that concept would generate up to $500 million in revenue for the state.
At the time, Cuomo offered the plan – a reversal of where he previously stood on mobile sports betting – because New York faced a $15 billion budget shortfall because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, a substantial federal relief package approved by Congress, as well as a reopened economy, have improved the state’s budget outlook.
In their versions of the budget, Assembly and Senate leaders proposed the more traditional format. However, Cuomo would not budge. In the end, and days after the spending plan was supposed to be passed on April 1, lawmakers and the governor reached a deal on mobile sports betting that included aspects of both plans. Lawmakers were able to get a guarantee that a minimum of four operators would be licensed. But the governor got his direct-to-the-state setup through a complex system of platform providers that would host sports betting apps.
When the solicitation was released last month, bidders were allowed to propose the tax rate. But the guidelines essentially ensured that the winning bidders would pay more than a 50 percent tax on revenues – in addition to paying a $25 million license fee – in exchange for a 10-year license.
According to the current time line, the New York State Gaming Commission will select finalists before Dec. 6 and give them a week to amend their proposals. Licenses would be awarded at the next commission meeting.
The current plan has been met with criticism from many in the sports betting industry, with concerns that it may not offer New York bettors a competitive market, especially if only four books are approved. There have also been concerns about what a high tax rate may mean regarding odds, and there have also been concerns about tribal gaming.
The RFA gives bidders bonus points for partnering with tribal gaming operators, but the outcome could lead to challenges. The Oneida Nation noted concerns when the budget bill was being discussed that it could lead to residents in its exclusive gaming area from getting a chance to bet online.
All in the Timing
On page 12 of the solicitation, the Gaming Commission states that it has the “sole discretion and authority” to withdraw it at any time.
Addabbo, who chairs the Senate Committee on Racing, Gaming, and Wagering, has pushed for the more traditional mobile sports betting structure for years. This past session, he and Assembly Racing and Wagering Chairman Gary Pretlow (D-Mount Vernon) fought to include that in the budget.
When asked if it was too late for any changes, Addabbo told Casino.org it becomes a question of timing, based on deadlines and possible transitions.
“It could break our way and we could move forward, or it could be a hurdle that we’re going to have to jump over and therefore cause a delay,” he said.
However, he noted that the state has to deal with it, as with other issues, on a day-by-day basis.
“I deal with the now, and right now we have a governor, and right now the gaming commission has a role to do,” he said.
Cuomo Impeachment Would Take Time
When Addabbo mentioned the timing, one of the issues tied to that was the possibility of an impeachment trial. As Cuomo has not shown any willingness to resign since the report came out, that would force the legislature’s hand to impeach.
Around the same time as the independent investigation began, the Assembly Judiciary Committee started its impeachment inquiry. Besides the harassment accusations, it is also looking into other allegations made against the governor in the past year.
Just as the independent investigation wrapped up its work, lawmakers may be ready to wrap up their review as well.
Assembly Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove) announced a deadline late last week. Lawyers working with the panel on its impeachment investigation have given Cuomo until this upcoming Friday to present additional evidence or documentation for lawmakers to consider.
A simple majority of the 150-seat Assembly is needed to approve any charges. That would lead to a trial with all state senators, except for the Senate Majority Leader – the second in line for gubernatorial succession — and the seven-member New York Court of Appeals would serve as the jury. If 46 – two-thirds of the 69 members – vote to convict, then Cuomo would be removed from office.
Beyond the actual trial and the votes, the impeachment trial cannot begin for at least 30 days to give Cuomo a chance to prepare. So, the trial could be happening as or after the Gaming Commission reviews applications or listens to oral presentations from bidders.
The Judiciary Committee will meet Monday morning, so Lavine may reveal more about a potential time line then.
Not There Yet
If Cuomo leaves office, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul would be the next governor, and Addabbo did note that a new administration could have new priorities on several New York issues, including sports betting.
However, he reiterated that the state isn’t there yet.
“We’re looking just as it currently stands, but being at the ready to deal with whatever faces us tomorrow,” he said. “So, I think that the best approach is just to be ready to do whatever we have to do.”