Sports betting in New York is not one of the most popular gaming activities. But all that about to change after the latest plan by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to open the gates of the Empire Stare to online casino and sportsbook operators, albeit on a limited-operator model. So, what should eager New York sports bettors expect from this latest piece of legislation?
New York legalizing gambling is a journey that is long overdue. In 2013, New York voters amended the constitution to allow lawmakers to authorize gambling at up to seven casinos. The constitutional amendment further allowed lawmakers to formulate laws regulating New York betting. Before this, all gambling activities within the state were limited to state-owned lotteries and Native American tribal casinos.
After being given such authority, the Legislature legalized New York sports betting in 2019. However, the new law stated that only persons physically within the state could place sports wagers in an authorized in-person venue. Still, industry experts argued that New York legislatures were barred from enacting laws legalizing any form of online gambling activity, be it in an online casino or sportsbook.
But in a surprising turn of events, Gibson Dunn attorneys successfully petitioned a case in 2020, allowing the Legislature to legalize online betting under the 2013 law amendment. They argued that all sports wagers via electronic communication are legal as long as it’s in a licensed facility. So it’s in line with this reasoning that online sports betting will see the light of day in New York.
When Gov. Cuomo officially announced the online sports betting proposal in January, he projected an annual $500 million revenue collection. He predicted that the first year of legal online sports betting would generate a paltry $50 million at most. However, he expects the figure to rise to $357 million by the 2023 Fiscal Year. If the governor’s projections were accurate, it means New York’s online sports betting revenue would dwarf those of neighboring states like New Jersey.
That said, Cuomo’s initial proposal states that the NY Gaming Commission would initiate the process to license one or more mobile casino and sportsbook operators. There have been murmurings that the selection model would primarily benefit the already-in-place upstate casino sportsbook partners. They include bet365, FanDuel, DraftKings, and BetRivers.
Apparently, other gaming entities like Aqueduct Racetrack’s Resort Worlds and MGM’s Yonkers Casinos will not participate in the bidding process. That’s because both entities were hoping to get full-fledged casino licenses, which wasn’t the case in the latest budget process. Also, the budget legislation excluded in-stadium wagering kiosks at Madison Square Garden, Yankee Stadium, and other NY sports venues.
Meanwhile, the governor promised that all three gaming tribes within the state would get a shot at online sports betting in New York. However, the details are very scanty. The Oneida Nation (partners William Hill/Caesars), Akwesasne Mohawk (partners Fox Bet), and Senneca have been pushing for legal sports betting for a while but could miss out on the statewide mobile gambling.
The latest deal undoubtedly leaves many unanswered questions. For example, it’s not clear how many operators will be eligible for the license. Tribal exclusion could also rock the boat, with the Oneida tribe threatening severe action is left out of online sports betting.
Even worse, the announcement will serve a big blow to Democrats and most industry stakeholders who wanted a competitive selection model. But that is now past tense, as the state looks set to launch the biggest (going by population) legal sports betting market in the US.