The battle to legalize online sports in New York State has been going on for years. However, as the Empire State now stares down an enormous budget hole on the back of restrictions related to the global pandemic, the State’s Governor Andrew Cuomo, has for the first time signaled that he is now open to legalize online sports wagering.
Cuomo’s comments came as a surprise as he has been silent on the issue for some time and gave a hint to the seriousness of the New York’s budget black hole. At a recent press conference, Cuomo said that despite the $15 billion state budget deficit, he was not seriously considering taxes on the mega-wealthy. Surprisingly, Cuomo said instead, there are alternatives to generating a significant increase in revenue for the state;
“How about marijuana? How about sports betting?” Cuomo asked.
Of course, what the Governor is talking about there is online sports wagering after the state launched legal bricks-and-mortar sports betting in 2019, but only at New York’s four upstate commercial casinos. Previously, Andrew Cuomo has resisted calls to legalize online sports wagering, as to do so would require a public referendum under the state’s constitution.
New York’s Legal Predicament for Sports Betting
New York voters actually approved sports betting at the state’s land-based casinos in a 2013 referendum, dependent on a change in federal law (that change in federal law came in 2018). However, in the past, Governor Cuomo has said that the result of that referendum only covered bricks-and-mortar betting.
Supporters of an established New York State online sports betting market have argued this is not exactly the case. The argument is, that provided an online sportsbook partners with one of the four land-based casinos (precisely as is the case already in neighboring New Jersey and Pennsylvania) and bases its servers on-site at the casino, they argue, then it may legally offer online sports betting across the Empire State.
Now that the New York Governor is confronted with the economic fallout of the global pandemic, it appears to be a proposal that Cuomo is at least prepared to consider. It is suggested that he could even write online sports betting into his forthcoming budget plan in this fashion rather than go through the additional costs and waiting time for referendum to pass.
Could it all happen quickly for Sports Betting in New York?
New York City’s closest state neighbor, New Jersey, in only 2-and-a-half-years of legal online sports betting has become the tearaway national sports betting handle leader on the back of mobile sports wagering.
This November, the Garden State produced an astonishing sports betting handle result of $931.6 million, putting New Jersey within touching distance of the magical $1 billion per month mark. That figure resulted in $50.6 million for the New Jersey state government coffers, however, most significantly, 93.6% of the Garden State sports betting record for November was generated by online wagers.
Of that amount, it is estimated that somewhere in the region of 20% of the New Jersey sports betting handle is generated by New Yorkers crossing the state line with their mobile device in hand, placing their wagers and going straight back.
New York respective legislative leaders, State Senator Joseph Addabbo and Assemblyman Gary Pretlow have long supported online sports betting. The duo has said they don’t want to wait for the budget deadline in April 2021, and due to the global pandemic closures, they can’t rely on the legislature being in session early in 2021. Hence, the idea of pushing through sports betting with the budget bill.
Watch this space, it could be an interesting close to 2020 for New York Sports Betting.