You would think New York, one of the country’s most liberal states, would embrace a new progressive movement like mobile sports betting. The Empire State does a lot of talking on other progressive issues such as pushing ‘tax the rich’ initiatives, so one would think allowing gamblers to place sports bets on their phones would be a no brainer.
However, it appears there are more lucrative issues to deal with for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his legion of Democrats.
So, unfortunately, for those who live in Queens looking to place a bet, the odds of New York mobile wagering happening anytime soon are, by my estimate, 4 to 1. Or about as good as the Mets winning the division in 2020 season.
Keeping New York mobile wagering at bay
The NY state senate has been on board with mobile wagering for quite some time. Even Assemblyman Gary Pretlow, a Democrat and chairman of the NY Racing & Wagering Committee, is in favor of legislation to permit mobile wagering. Pretlow has also publicly stated that he “has the votes” on both sides of the aisle.
So what gives?
When you look closely, there has been one man, one constant, that has held mobile sports betting at bay. And it’s not the governor but rather his gatekeeper, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.
Heastie told reporters in December, the only way to fix the $6 billion budget deficit is to cut spending or raise revenue.
“Unless money is going to fall from the sky, you’re always going to have to try to do things. And so when there’s a concern about having enough money, the two options always are, do you cut spending or do you raise revenue, and for us, in the Assembly, we always believe in raising revenue.”
Looking for free money?
Clearly, the money traveling across the border into New Jersey–where bettors can easily place a mobile wager on if the Mets will win more than 86 games this upcoming season–is of zero importance.
According to figures from the NJ Division of Gaming Enforcement, roughly 88% of sports wagers came via mobile or online platforms. To put that in terms of money, that’s over $557 million in sports betting handle and revenue of $29.4 million in December.
To take it a step further, last year, NJ sports betting accounted for more than $4.58 billion in handle, $300 million in revenue, and over $36 million going to state taxes.
“All that revenue [going to New Jersey] some have said, as much as a quarter of NJ sports betting revenue is coming from NY State,” said David O. Klein, a gaming attorney with Klein Moynihan Turco in New York City. “We are just giving that money away. Why not take the proverbial bite of the taxpayer pie and keep it here. That’s a great way to make up the shortfall.”
When asked what is more likely, a Mets winnings season or mobile wagering becoming legal, Klein, a native New Yorker and Mets zealot, was hesitant to answer.
“It’s a toss-up. Don’t want to jinx either,” he said.
What Cuomo says…goes?
When Cuomo called mobile wagering “irresponsible,” his legion of followers backed their king.
In his 2020 budget address, Cuomo said, “this is not the time to come up with creative although irresponsible revenue sources to solve a problem which doesn’t really exist.”
But according to Klein, money from sports betting is a lot more than chump change.
“Cuomo spoke that whatever is done is not going to make up the shortfall, and I respectfully disagree,” Klein said. “It’s more than just a drop in a bucket, it’s a little bit of a stream, and it certainly would help.”
Klein took his theory a bit further and said it’s not unimaginable to think NY sports betting could outdo New Jersey in time.
“I’d be shocked if New York didn’t surpass, very quickly, the annual sports betting revenue that New Jersey is able to realize. But obviously, it takes time and needs to be done correctly and carefully,” he said.
There was one thing Cuomo did do; he made sports betting in New York almost a mirror image of Mississippi sports betting by amending the Sports Wagering Lounge restrictions. It is unknown precisely what the rules will look like, but in theory, bettors might only have to make it on casino grounds to place wagers. This means, much like in Mississippi, customers are not limited to placing bets within the confines of a physical sportsbook, but rather the whole casino grounds.
It’s only January, but mobile sports betting is already looking like the Mets did during the first half of the 2019 season — lifeless.
“[Cuomo] has indicated in the past that to expand into mobile betting it may require a constitutional amendment to the state constitution, some agree, some disagree — I don’t want to say one way or the other,” Klein said.
With the clout Heastie wields as Assembly Speaker, and a Governor not willing to think outside the box, I’d say 4 to 1 odds are better than expected. But with a former Cy Young winner and a homerun champion on the roster, maybe the Mets have a shot. And maybe there’s a chance for a bill to make it to the governor’s desk — but probably not.