Cuomo Set to Propose Legalization of Mobile Sports Betting in New York

Governor finally embraces mobile betting

New York could be the next state to begin the process of legalizing mobile sports betting, as Governor Andrew Cuomo reportedly intends to include a mobile sports betting bill in his 2021 policy proposals.

Gov. Cuomo will set out his proposals next week in the State of the State address. Despite being hesitant to introduce mobile sports betting in the past, he aims to create a legal market to counter the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

New York has the potential to be the largest sports wagering market in the United States”

In a statement obtained by NY Daily News, Gov. Cuomo explained the reasoning behind his decision, saying: “New York has the potential to be the largest sports wagering market in the United States, and by legalizing online sports betting we aim to keep millions of dollars in tax revenue here at home, which will only strengthen our ability to rebuild from the COVID-19 crisis.”

If passed, Cuomo’s proposal would permit the New York State Gaming Commission to issue a request for proposals to offer mobile sports wagering. The legislation would require operators to partner with licensed casinos.

Cuomo’s previous hard stance

Gov. Cuomo has battled back and forth with state lawmakers over mobile betting since the repeal of the federal ban on US sports wagering in May 2018. He repeatedly expressed his opposition to a legal online market, insisting it would require a constitutional amendment. This would necessitate a public vote for final approval.

the Assembly did not want to risk the governor’s veto and subsequently dropped the bill

In March 2019, a new bill proposed by Assemblyman Gary Pretlow set out changes to sports betting legislation that would permit mobile wagering in New York. The bill passed the Senate 57-5 but never made it to the floor of the New York State Assembly. Aware of Cuomo’s opposition, lawmakers did not want to risk the governor’s veto and subsequently dropped the bill.

Confirming his stance last year, Cuomo’s 2021 state budget proposal omitted any allowance for online sports betting. The proposal did, however, introduce new policies for retail sportsbook operators, including legal betting outside of sportsbook lounges. Speaking with Legal Sports Report at the time, Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr said Cuomo met Senate proposals for increasing state revenue through mobile sports betting with a resounding “no”.

Gov. Cuomo finally displayed an interest in a legalized mobile sports betting market during a press conference in December 2020. NY Daily News quoted the governor as saying: “Are there other ways to get revenue? How about marijuana? How about sports betting?”

What has changed?

In March 2020, the first wave of coronavirus hit New York particularly hard, prompting Gov. Cuomo to introduce a state-wide lockdown. This included the state’s casinos, which only reopened on September 9. Now, the situation is worsening once more. The governor has warned that non-essential businesses may close again in January if virus cases keep rising.

As New York battles the financial losses imposed by the virus, Cuomo said current online gambling legislation “incentivizes a large segment of New York residents” to cross state boundaries and wager in New Jersey. As a result, the state loses considerable tax funds through the Garden State’s online sportsbooks.

According to research by Eilers & Krejcik Gaming, New York residents bet a total of $837m in New Jersey in 2019. This corresponds to gross revenue of $57m and a loss of $6m in tax revenue. The research firm estimated New Yorkers could bet up to $1.56bn with New Jersey sportsbooks by the year 2022, equating to $11m in lost tax for the Empire State.

In contrast to New York, the Garden State capitalized on a booming online sports betting market last year. Despite the brief cancellation of sports, New Jersey broke records for sports betting handle throughout 2020. In November, the state posted a national monthly handle record of $931.6m. Online wagers contributed 93.6% of this total.

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