Cuomo Suggests Way to Legalize Mobile Wagering without Referendum

New York is firmly heading in the direction of mobile sports betting legalization as Gov. Cuomo is placing the measure in the center of his policy proposals ahead of next week’s State of the State address.

Huge Deficit Forced Cuomo to Rethink His Stance

Cuomo showed signs his long-standing position against the legalization of mobile sports betting in the state was changing in December, pressed for finding additional sources of revenue to fill the huge budget gap for the next 4 years of between $70 billion and $75 billion.

Even if drawn down to around $60 billion through federal aid, or $15 billion per year, the significant deficit due to the impact of the coronavirus outbreak and the series of measures undertaken to curb the further spread of the disease, forced Cuomo to reconsider the issue of legalizing mobile wagering and look at it from a funds-generating point of view.

And while New York was still contemplating legalization of mobile sports wagering, neighboring New Jersey which accepts bets from mobile devices continued to set the pace in the industry by registering a record $931 million in sports wagers in November, with 94% of the bets, $872 million, being placed through a mobile app or online.

“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.”

Gov. Cuomo

A recent survey put salt to the wound, as it revealed that nearly 20% of sports wagers in the Garden State come from New York residents who either drive or take a train across the Hudson River to place a bet on their smartphones.

“At a time when New York faces a historic budget deficit due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the current online sports wagering structure incentivizes a large segment of New York residents to travel out of state to make online sports wagers or continue to patronize black markets.”

Gov. Cuomo

No Constitutional Amendment Needed

Cuomo obviously changed his past stance that the legalization of mobile wagering would require a constitutional amendment, proposing state licenses and partnership with a licensed gaming facility as the only prerequisites for a mobile betting operator to commence operations.

His new proposal resembles a bill unveiled last year which required servers for online sports betting operations to be located at upstate casinos with approved physical sportsbooks, allowing mobile wagering under the current gambling regulations.

Cuomo suggests the New York State Gaming Commission initiate the process by issuing a request-for-proposals (RFP) to offer mobile sports betting in the state, as well as expand its existing regulatory integrity programs to ensure the implementation of all necessary safeguards by state licensed operators.

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