Gov. Andrew Cuomo backs mobile sports betting

It took a second, more deadly wave of the coronavirus to get Andrew Cuomo to come to his senses.

Facing a budget deficit in the billions due to COVID-19, the governor of New York is throwing his support behind legislation in the state senate to approve and permit mobile sports betting in the Empire State.

Proponents say having mobile betting could generate hundreds of millions, perhaps even billions in revenue for a state that is staring at a budget deficit of at least $70 billion over a four-year span.

“I’m not here to make casinos a lot of money. I’m here to raise funds for the state,” Cuomo said. “So we have a different model for sports betting.”

Right now, the current model is lacking. There are eight retail sportsbooks in New York, none in the New York metropolitan area. Combined, they don’t generate a lot of revenue for the state. Legalize mobile betting and that changes the entire picture dramatically.

Customers will have convenience working for them. They’ll be able to bet in-game as well as props and other wagers.

For residents of the five boroughs, Long Island and Westchester, not only will those people who live in the state’s most populous area have access to legally bet, they no longer have to do business in New Jersey. An estimated 25% of that state’s mobile business are with New Yorkers. And we all know how well Jersey is doing in the sportsbook world. It is approaching $1 billion in monthly handle.

In Western New York, home to the NFL Buffalo Bills and the NHL’s Sabres, mobile betting would be a boon to customers there. And once the border with Canada reopens, it could create a market for Canadians to sign up for mobile accounts, come into New York and wager, much like New Yorkers currently do in New Jersey.

Cuomo should take it two steps further. One, allow retail books at the two New York-area racetracks that have casinos on their property — Resorts World which is at Aqueduct in Queens, and MGM, which is at Yonkers Raceway just north of the New York City border. If you want to include other tracks such as Saratoga, Finger Lakes, and harness tracks such as Buffalo Raceway and Tioga Downs, great.

Two, allow sportsbooks in the sports venues. Let Yankee Stadium and Citi Field have a retail book. Permit Madison Square Garden in Manhattan, Barclays Center in Brooklyn and the new UBS Arena at Belmont Park to operate a book, much like Capital One Arena and William Hill are doing in Washington D.C.

Give customers more options and they’ll likely spend more. Now is not the time to limit your ability to generate revenue.

This is what Joe Addabbo has been saying for the last two-plus years. The state senator from Queens, whose district includes Aqueduct and Resorts World Casino, told Gaming Today last month that mobile sports betting would be big for the state and help give the sagging coffers a significant boost.

“The deficit and debt would be offset by the revenue brought in via mobile betting,” Addabbo said. “It’s a no brainer.”

It would also be wise to allow multiple operators to be licensed. Competition is good for consumers and the state can reap more fees in licenses with multiple vendors or “skins.” Let William Hill and BetMGM duke it out with FanDuel, DraftKings and BetRivers and give customers incentives to sign up. Tax them a little higher, but not too high so as to discourage them from doing business in New York.

This is a great opportunity for New York to generate much needed revenue without taxing its residents further. Cuomo should not limit his options. Get mobile up and running. Open retail books at New York’s sports venues. Do business with reputable, proven operators. Then watch the sea of red ink your state is wallowing in reduce itself significantly.

Either that or charge people $30 to cross the Verrazano Bridge.

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