Six years ago, the state of New York legalized land-based sports wagering through the 2013 New York Economic Gaming Act. The law allowed four upstate casinos in New York to offer sports betting, in the event that the federal law prohibiting sports wagering (PASPA) was repealed. On 16 July 2019, New York launched sports betting operations. However, unlike the neighboring states of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, New York has not legalized online or mobile sports betting. Compare.bet US recently caught up with Senator Joseph Addabbo, one of the main NY lawmakers campaigning for state-wide online wagering.
CB – How did it feel when New York’s legislative ended without a vote on the proposed legislation for online sports betting?
Sen. Addabbo – It’s disappointing and frustrating watching the state of New Jersey do very well with it [online sports betting] when we missed the opportunity to do it just as well. The language in the bill covered every aspect of sports betting and would have even cleared up the illegal sports betting activity we have in our state.
Many people in the industry are surprised New York hasn’t yet legalized online sports betting, while New Jersey has been doing it for over a year now. Since the Supreme Court repealed the law [PASPA], we have had two legislative sessions where we had the opportunity to legalize online sports betting. Knowing we have passed up two opportunities for mobile sports betting is disappointing and frustrating.
CB– The online sports betting bill had received enough votes, why was it not put up for a vote?
Sen. Addabbo – It passed overwhelmingly in the Senate, 57-5. In the Assembly, Senator Pretlow, my counterpart, had a sufficient number of votes to pass the bill. The speaker of the Assembly said the Governor would not sign the bill even if we were to pass it in both houses. Quite frankly that’s not our job, our job is to pass legislation and let the Governor make a decision. We don’t just pass legislation that the Governor is definitely going to sign, we pass legislation regardless of whether the Governor signs it. So to use that’s not an excuse, it’s not our job.
Our job is to legislate and pass legislation. While I can’t speak for the Assembly, I do know that there were enough votes to pass that bill in the Assembly and to push the bill to the Governor to make a decision. Unfortunately, it didn’t pass, and it wasn’t even voted on.
CB – What do you think was Governor Cuomo’s motivation behind opposing online betting?
Sen. Addabbo – During my discussions with the Governor’s office, the first concern was the compacts we have with the three tribal nations in the state and their right to gaming. We addressed that in the bill, by allowing tribes to opt into sports betting. We don’t normally make money from gaming that happens on tribal land but we would have gained revenue from the tribal venues offering sports betting under the sports betting bill because it requires a server on the land of a licensed casino in the state.
The Governor also said that New Jersey only makes $13m from sports betting, and that’s not a lot of money. First of all, that was one given month and that is $13m we don’t have in New York. That would have been money for our education, as 80% of our gaming revenue goes to an education fund, so that’s money that the governor is dispelling. That $13m he was referring to was just for one month. If you multiply that by 12, New York state could have made over $100m.
Every issue the Governor bought up for not doing online sports betting, whether it be the revenue or the Indians, was addressed in our legislation. The biggest hurdle was the constitutionality Both the Governor and the speaker believe it is unconstitutional, but that’s wrong too. When a bet is placed from anywhere within New York, it’s only valid if it’s accepted by the server. Placing the server on the same land as a licensed casino would solve the constitutionality issue. It becomes constitutional once the bet is accepted at one of the licensed casinos and by putting the server there, we would have done that. We had over a dozen law firms and legal experts write up legal briefs that stated this is constitutional.
We refuted, with fact, every reason the Governor and Speaker gave us for not doing online sports betting.
CB– It sounds like it’s been incredibly stressful for you guys.
Sen. Addabbo – Imagine it: you’re sitting in New York and watching New Jersey overcome Nevada and do such a good job. You have other states like Pennsylvania and Connecticut getting it done. We are here watching every other state pass us by. These states are making money, creating jobs, and having a good time. It is frustrating because you want to be a part of the game, you want to be in it so we can get the educational funding, the jobs and the revenue.
CB– What was your initial reaction to the launch of retail and land-based betting?
Sen. Addabbo – It was a step in the right direction, even if it was a small step. I spoke to the workers at some of the sports lounges and they are happy, the jobs pay well. The state will make some revenue on it- especially with football season coming up. However, the four casinos that offer sports betting are all upstate and you have to be there physically to place the bet. I went back to my district, which is three hours away, and told the people we have sports betting, but you have to drive three hours to place a bet. They told me they’d drive just 20 minutes to New Jersey, place a bet and then come home.
When the Racing Gaming and Wagering Committee held a hearing on sports wagering, two witnesses gave testimony that 25% of New Jersey’s revenue from sports betting comes from New York. It’s a significant amount- a quarter of New Jersey’s revenue is our money. While land-based betting is a step in the right direction, I still think that, for the downstate area and to maximise revenue streams, we need mobile sports betting. We took a small step forwards, but we can do so much better.
CB– With football season approaching, do you feel New York is at a disadvantage in comparison to other states with legal betting?
Sen. Addabbo – Once again, it’s going to be very disappointing and frustrating to watch New Jersey’s numbers jump up in football season because they have online and mobile betting. Our numbers will jump up but very incrementally. t will be even more frustrating because we did a study comparing states with and without mobile betting, and the revenue in states with mobile betting far outweighs those without it. We know we’re not maximizing that revenue and we are allowing illegal activity to continue in our state It’s unfortunate really. We had the opportunity to take that illegal activity, clean it up and realize revenue from it and now we are just letting it go. We are letting the illegal activity continue, and that’s not the role of the government- it’s our job to stamp out illegal activity.
CB– Do you believe land-based sports betting at NY’s four upstate casinos and tribal casinos will generate a significant amount of revenue?
Sen. Addabbo – It will, a study we have coming out at the end of the year will look at that. It will look at gaming in our state and the four casinos with sports betting will be a part of that study. I’m not so enthusiastic about fourth-quarter numbers because October, November and December are tough months for the industry. The weather and holiday at the end of the year mean people don’t spend a lot of money during the fourth quarter. Nevertheless, we will have a study by the end of the year and at least we are in the game and have some form of sports betting.
CB– In your honest opinion, do you believe the NY State Gaming Commission’s sports betting study will have much of an impact on future legislative efforts?
Sen. Addabbo – I hope so and I remain optimistic that this study will provide a blueprint or roadmap for how we can improve upon sports betting, gaming and entertainment within our state. If done correctly, we will see how we can maximise revenue from sports betting and gaming throughout the state, which will help fund education and create jobs. I am hopeful that, if the study is done correctly, we can use it in the legislative process.
CB – When do you expect online and mobile betting to come to New York?
Sen. Addabbo – Again, I like to be optimistic. The Governor’s executive budget didn’t include anything to do with gaming, definitely not mobile sports betting when it came out in January. In the Senate, our proposed budget included sports betting and we passed it, but the Assembly did not include it in their budget. I believe the Senate has a vision of doing it correctly in our state, so I’ll remain optimistic that this January, with the Gaming Commission’s study in our hands, we could see something in the Governors’ proposed budget. I hope it’s in the budget as it is a revenue generator and a job generator, but the Committee is prepared to go forward with a separate stand-alone bill again. There is enough support in the Senate and Assembly to do this.
We have tried to convince the governor, with facts, that we can address every issue with online sports betting and other gaming issues. We even addressed gaming addiction in the bill, which is important to us; we can’t go forward with expanding sports betting without exploring this. We are prepared to do it through the budget or through a stand-alone bill.
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