Welcome to New York, where sports betting is here in bits and pieces. While sportsbooks opened at New York casinos in 2019, online sports betting took longer to make its way to the state. But in 2021, Gov. Andrew Cuomo added mobile sports betting to the state budget and it passed through the NY Legislature. This means, if things go as planned, New Yorkers could begin placing online sports bets by the 2022 Super Bowl.
The new law for online betting comes with its own limitations, and we’ll get into that a bit later. So although NY sports betting is not up to its potential by any measure right now — and efforts to move things in that direction have more often led to frustration — there is some success.
For now, while we wait for NY online sports betting to get off the ground officially, NY sports bettors who don’t want to visit one of the commercial New York casinos can download sports betting apps in NY and bet a very short trip away in New Jersey. Once you’re in NJ, you can place your bet and head home, or hang out and watch the game. You do not need to be in NJ to collect your winnings, only to bet.
This page gives you a complete overview of New York sports betting laws, where and how to bet in the state, and recent updates as online sportsbooks make their way to the Empire State. Let’s start by answering the important questions, so read on for the latest on NY sports betting.
Download betting apps in NY and bet on sports in NJ
UPDATED: June 1, 2021
Offshore gambling operator Bovada recently announced it will no longer accept wagers from customers located in New York.
According to PlayNY, Bovada said it fears prosecution from NY regulators more than any other jurisdiction.
Additionally, with the recent legalization of NY mobile sports betting, illegal offshore operators like Bovada, might be forced out one way or another.
Is sports betting legal in New York?
Yes, sports betting is legal in New York. However, for the moment only retail sports betting is offered. Customers can place bets at the state’s four commercial casinos and tribal casinos in New York. Online sports betting was legalized in April 2021 but is not live yet.
Are there legal sportsbook apps in NY?
Not yet. Cuomo’s state budget signed in 2021 includes the addition of online sports betting but regulations and licensing are still in process. The legislation calls for the New York State Gaming Commission to contract with two platform providers, who will in turn host two online skins each. In other words, New Yorkers should expect at least four apps to start.
When will NY online sports betting launch?
Right now there is no definitive answer. Regulators have until Jan. 17, 2022, to choose the state’s two platform providers. Based off that timeline, mobile sports betting would hopefully launch before the Super Bowl in February 2022. However, there is a possibility it could launch sometime in 2021. Perhaps before the start of the 2021 NFL season.
While the state has finally found a way to have online sports betting, hiccups are likely as the licensing and regulatory process moves forward. For instance, it is unknown how New York will solve the potential conflict with exclusive tribal zones. That being said, there are hopes the launch will still happen sooner rather than later.
Which New York sports betting sites will launch?
This is a very complex question to answer. The way NY mobile sports betting will be structured is through the New York Lottery. There could be at least two New York sports betting apps to start with at most four. A number of betting apps are expected to apply for one of the two platform providers. The request for proposals (RFP) is already in process, with a deadline of July 31.
Fan favorites such as DraftKings, FanDuel, and Barstool Sportsbook are expected to apply. Additionally, we expect these brands and several others to toss their hat in the ring.
- William Hill
- Fox Bet
The state gaming commission has until January 2022 to make a decision.
Can you play daily fantasy sports in New York?
For now, yes. Going forward, things are much less clear. Daily fantasy sports (DFS) is, at best, in legal limbo in New York. You can play, but we don’t suggest getting too comfortable with it. DFS has never had a particular smooth history in the Empire State, and thanks to a recent court decision, its entire existence in New York is now under threat.
The problem stems from the manner in which the New York Assembly attempted to legalize DFS. The New York Constitution requires that gambling expansions must be approved by both lawmakers and the electorate in order to become law. In an effort to stop the legal fighting that had waged for years between the state attorney general and DFS companies, the legislature attempted to carve out sections of existing gambling law to accommodate what it called “interactive fantasy sports” in 2016.
A group of concerned citizens immediately sued for an injunction against the new law and challenged the constitutionality of the lawmakers’ move. So far, the litigants have found quite a bit of success in the New York court system. Both the New York Supreme Court (which is the trial-level court in New York, rather than the top of the appellate system) and the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court have found in favor of the citizens, casting tremendous doubt on the long-term prospects for DFS in the Empire State. The last chance for legal DFS in New York rests with the New York Court of Appeals. Although nothing is ever certain in a courtroom, things are not looking good for the likes of DraftKings and FanDuel’s DFS business. If you want to play, you’d better do it while you can.
How New York sports betting works
There are two sides to NY sports betting: retail betting, which has been live since 2019, and online betting, which is a bit more complicated. Here’s how both sides of the sports betting coin work in the Empire State.
In-person betting in NY
Voters approved legalized sports betting in 2013. However, it wasn’t until the fall of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) in 2018 that NY casinos were finally able to implement sports betting into their properties. In July 2019, the first sports bet was placed in the Empire State.
Seven tribal casinos and the four commercial casinos in the state opened sportsbooks in 2019, though none of them are located close to New York City. Sports betting operates within the parameters of standard NY gaming law, with a few exceptions:
- No bad-actor clause
- No integrity/royalty fee
Sports betting is administered under the New York State Gaming Commission’s Rules Chapter 4, Subsection B, Part 5329. Sports betting is taxed at 10% in accordance with the Racing, Pari-Mutuel Wagering And Breeding Law.
Online betting in NY
Due to the remote location of the commercial and tribal casinos in New York, particularly with regard to NYC, online sports betting has been a long time coming in the Empire State. Unfortunately, there have been many delays and hiccups in New York’s path to mobile sports betting. Thankfully, it looks like the wait is finally over. While online casinos in NY are still off the table, New York’s state budget for fiscal year 2022 includes a lengthy section on mobile sports betting. Here are the highlights:
- There will be at least two platform providers.
- There will be at least four mobile skins.
- The platform servers will be placed at commercial casinos in the state and the placement is at the discretion of the New York State Gaming Commission, not the platform.
- Each host casino will receive $5 million annually for its storage and security of the servers from the platforms.
- The NYSGC will select the platforms and skins based upon an RFP bidding procedure. The RFPs will go out by July 2021.
- In addition to the $5 million per annum to the server host casino, the selected platform providers will have to pay a $25 million license fee.
- Each platform will also be required to pay at least 50% of its revenue in taxes.
- Each platform will need to have its skin partner deals in place before submitting a bid.
- Potential platforms can bid according to their expertise, experience, and ability to launch. Interestingly, though, they must also propose a tax rate of at least 50%, and they can raise the rate beyond that point as an incentive to the NYSGC to select them.
- There may also be other preferential elements in the RFP, including a partnership with one of New York’s tribal casinos and the use of official league data.
This structure means that a platform provider could end up paying $30 million to the state in its first year of operation and would have to surrender at least half of its revenue to taxes before it could begin recouping the loss. Cuomo and company have estimated that online sports betting will bring $500 million into the state coffers each year, so it makes sense that his office has proposed and pushed such a model into the approved budget.
What remains to be seen is how the various companies respond to this long series of requirements. It is instructive to remember what happened in neighboring Pennsylvania in 2018. The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board mandated a $10 million license fee and a 36% tax rate for its new sports betting industry, but when it opened its window for licensing, nobody submitted an application for a license for more than three months.
Who regulates NY sports betting?
New York gambling is regulated by the New York State Gaming Commission (NYSGC). This same entity regulates retail sports betting and will also regulate mobile/online sports betting when it eventually launches. Tribal sports betting does not fall under the jurisdiction of the NYSGC as the tribes are considered sovereign nations.
How old do I have to be to bet on sports in NY?
The minimum age to place a sports bet in New York is 21 years of age. The same will be said for online betting.
How to get started betting on sports in NY
If you are going to one of the New York casinos with a sportsbook right now, the process is simple: peruse the odds board and visit one of the tellers to place your bet. You can also use a self-serve kiosk if available. Getting started at NY online sportsbooks will be similar but a bit more involved.
In this day and age, most people own smartphones or tablets. So their most common method to access an online sportsbook would be through a dedicated app. It is almost standard for sportsbooks to offer app versions to Apple and Android users, so you should be able to find something that works. If you happen to be a person who prefers to use a computer or desktop browser, however, you are still in luck. Many sportsbooks do offer a browser-based option. Check each sportsbook to make sure before you sign up, though.
Now, regardless of how you choose to access an app, you’ll have to follow four steps to get started. We’ll describe them in greater detail below, but if you’re pressed for time, here they are in brief:
- Download the app to your device and install it.
- Register for an account and make sure to activate any bonuses.
- Deposit from your bank account or one of the other options.
- Make your first bet.
Do I have to be in NY to bet online?
Yes, you will have to be located in New York State to place an online sports bet. One hurdle that confronts any state considering online sports betting is the notion of how to ensure that sports betting on its apps takes place only inside state lines. Regulators will accomplish this goal by requiring sportsbooks to employ geolocation verification software as part of their online offering. Before any bettor can place a wager, the betting app needs to pinpoint the bettor’s location inside New York (or wherever) reliably.
Geolocation software, for its part, is actually quite accurate these days. It can effectively create a virtual fence around the state in question. On a phone or tablet, the app uses the built-in GPS of the device. On a desktop browser, users are asked to download and install geolocation software.
Downloading and installing NY sports betting apps
Obviously, step one of playing on a New York betting app is to get the app on your device. The best way to begin this process is to make sure to write down and save any bonus codes we have listed before you do. You’ll need them in just a bit. Once launched, our exclusive links should take you to a screen for either choosing your format or beginning your download. If necessary, click the logo for your device’s format — either Apple (iOS) or Android.
Apple users will soon discover that the procedure for downloading and installing a sportsbook app is largely identical to that of any other type of app. Once you reach the download page, click the “get” button to start the process, and the installation should take care of itself.
As for Android users, it used to be complicated but as of March 2021, the Google Play Store now accepts gambling apps. This streamlines the process to download the NY sportsbook you wish to register, making it similar to the Apple process.
Registering for a New York sportsbook account
The next step in the process is to register for an account. There should be a large and brightly colored button in the top right of your display, no matter your format. The button should say something like “sign up,” “join,” or “register.” If it says something else, don’t sweat it — there’s really not going to be another button the same size.
Once you select the button, you will be whisked to the registration area for the sportsbook. This area will either be a single screen or a group of screens with various blanks on them. The blanks are to be filled with your personal details. Almost every single blank will be mandatory for you to register, so don’t leave anything out. Typical information that you will need to submit includes:
- Your name*
- Mailing address
- Email address
- Phone number
- Date of birth
- Social Security number (or last four digits)
- Username choice
- Password choice
*We recommend using your full, legal name here. We did not, and it added an extra headache for verifying our account later.
You may also have to select security questions from a dropdown menu. These questions will be specific personal questions, like your favorite teacher, your first pet’s name, or the street upon which you grew up. Choose the question you want to answer, then put the answer in the blank.
One last thing — before you hit that button to submit your information, look for a space for bonus codes. It’s usually the only blank marked as optional. If our link indicated that there was a no deposit bonus or some other type of bonus that required a code to trigger, you’d enter it here. Even a single typo might keep you from realizing the value of the offer. Sometimes the language will change. For example, to get the bonus at MGM, they’ll ask for a BetMGM NY bonus code.
Customers can expect remote registration to play a part in NY mobile sports betting. This means users can sign up for their online betting accounts from anywhere in the state once mobile betting launches.
Depositing and withdrawing from NY sportsbook apps
Once you’ve finished registration, your next stop is likely to be the cashier. The following section will walk you through all the options that you’ll have for banking with New York sportsbooks. Sportsbooks have a vested interest in making sure transactions are as painless and flexible as possible, so they offer as many ways to deposit and withdraw as their systems allow.
You should be able to find at least one method that works for you. If not, that’s a perfectly legitimate reason to look elsewhere for a sportsbook. Given the fact that there are even ways to deposit (and sometimes withdraw) with cash, it’s silly to waste your time and money on a book that can’t get it together.
Here are the most common methods of depositing into a New York sportsbook app.
- Credit and debit cards
- Electronic checks
- Electronic wallets (such as PayPal and Skrill)
- Online banking and wire transfers
- Prepaid cards
Many of these methods will also work for withdrawals. However, be prepared for the fact that withdrawal methods are usually a bit sparser.
New York sportsbook bonuses and rewards
The registration screen is your first opportunity to take advantage of one of the best parts about online sportsbooks — bonuses. The bonuses, promotions, and rewards opportunities are a distinct feature of online sportsbooks versus their land-based cousins, and a definite advantage.
However, it is not known as yet how the semi-monopoly system in New York as outlined above will affect the level or number of available bonuses at the sites. NJ sports betting apps offer a never-ending amount of bonuses and promotions to entice customers, but the same cannot be said as yet for NY apps. With that in mind, the following information should be taken with a grain of salt.
First of all, not all bonuses are equal, and each type of bonus bears its own pros and cons. Here are the most common sportsbook bonuses and how they work:
- No deposit/free bets — No deposit bonuses do not require any investment on your part besides your time. They are most common as an enticement for you to register on the site.
- Deposit bonus — The sportsbook app pledges to match all or part of your deposit. The amount of bonus money you can receive will always be capped, but can be hundreds of dollars. This type of bonus usually has the most stringent playthrough requirements.
- Cash back/insurance — Cash-back bonuses help you recover your losses. For a specific period of time or a specific game, the book will refund any net negatives you experience. However, you have to show a net loss — individual losses don’t get a refund if you end up in the black.
- Event repetition/drip — Sports have numerous events that happen repeatedly. The number of times they will happen in a game changes, however. For this kind of bonus, you pay a flat fee upfront, then the sportsbook drips a nominal amount of money back to you each time the event happens. So, for instance, you pay $25, but get $3 back every time a team makes a 3-pointer in basketball.
- Rewards/loyalty — A rewards or loyalty program is a common promo at both live and online sportsbooks. You earn points that you can redeem for prizes, perks and other benefits as you play. Most clubs also have status tiers that they use to grade and reward loyal customers.
- Odds boosts — Odds boosts are extremely common promotions that are often their own tab on sportsbook apps. They involve the sportsbook artificially inflating the payouts on certain bets slightly. Usually, a boost is not enough to make a bet worthwhile that wasn’t before, but they can be a nice bump to the payout potential.
Where can I place a sports bet in NY?
New York has retail sportsbooks across the state. You can place a wager at any one of these facilities (all hours subject to change):
|Del Lago Resort Casino||DraftKings Sportsbook||Waterloo||855-335-5246||Mon-Fri 10am-11pm; Sat-Sun 9am-11pm|
|Tioga Downs Casino Resort||FanDuel Sportsbook||Nichols||607-414-1129||Mon-Fri 11am-11pm; Sat-Sun 10am-11pm|
|Turning Stone Casino Resort||The Lounge with Caesars Sports||Verona||800-771-7711||Mon-Fri noon-10pm; Sat-Sun 10am-10pm|
|Point Place Casino||The Lounge with Caesars Sports||Bridgeport||315-366-9610||Mon-Fri noon-10pm; Sat-Sun 10am-10pm|
|Yellow Brick Road Casino||The Lounge with Caesars Sports||Chittenango||315-366-9400||Mon-Fri noon-10pm; Sat-Sun 10am-10pm|
|Rivers Casino & Resort||Rivers Sportsbook||Schenectady||518-579-8800||Mon-Thu 10am-midnight; Fri 10am-1am; Sat 9am-1am; Sun 9am-midnight|
|Resorts World Catskills||Sportsbook 360||Monticello||833-586-9358||Wed-Sun 10am-1am; Mon-Tues 5:30pm-1am|
|Akwesasne Mohawk Casino||Sticks Sportsbook and Grill||Hogansburg||518-358-2222||Wed-Thu 6pm-10pm; Fri 2pm-10pm; Sat-Sun 11am-10pm|
|Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino||Sports Lounge||Buffalo||877-873-6322||Mon-Fri 10am-midnight; Sat-Sun 8am-midnight|
|Seneca Niagara Resort and Casino||Sports Lounge||Niagara Falls||877-873-6322||Daily 10am-midnight|
|Seneca Allegany Resort & Casino||Sports Lounge||Salamanca||888-913-3377||Mon-Thu noon-8pm; Fri-Sat 8am-11pm; Sun 8am-9pm|
What bets can I make in New York?
If you’ve traveled to one of New York’s land-based sportsbooks, you have a decent idea about the offerings you’ll find when online sports betting launches. Online sports betting will be far more dynamic and intricate than retail sports betting, and you may be surprised to find several types of wagers that are foreign to you. Here are the types of wagers you can expect to find online:
- Point spreads
- Totals (over/unders)
- Live betting
- Round robins
Of course, most, if not all of these bets are available at retail locations — at least, in terms of the types of wagers. However, the addition of live betting (or in-game betting) means that the vast majority of bet options during a game will appear only in online settings.
Online sportsbooks also permit the action to occur before a bet settles. Several books have a cash-out option, which may open the chance for you to close a bet early. Some sportsbooks even have an “edit my bet” choice, where you can alter the terms of your wager while the game is in progress.
Betting on futures in NY
One type of wager to which you should pay special attention is the futures bet. Futures wagers are already available at New York’s retail sportsbooks, and they are undoubtedly part of any online sportsbook plans, too. Let’s start with a quick definition of a futures wager. A futures bet involves the possibilities that may occur at the end of a tournament or season of play. Bets about championships and end-of-year awards are prime fodder for this type of bet.
Here are some futures bets that you might come across in New York:
- Bet on the Jets, Bills or Giants to win the Super Bowl or their respective conference championships. You could also bet on players from these teams to win awards like MVP and Super Bowl MVP.
- Bet on the Knicks or the Nets to win the NBA Finals or the Eastern Conference You could also bet on players to win MVP or All-NBA, or be selected to the All-Star Game.
- Bet on the Mets or Yankees to win the World Series or their respective pennants. Players from these teams might also be in the running for MVP or Cy Young.
- Bet on the Rangers, Islanders or Sabres to win the Stanley Cup. You could also bet on a player from one of these teams to win the MVP award, the Norris Trophy or one of the other end-of-season awards.
- Bet on the numerous colleges and universities to challenge for NCAA championships.
Futures bets are almost always moneylines and are usually a long list. Because there are so many competitors for each end-of-season award or championship, it’s not uncommon to see odds for every single team in the league — even if some of them have virtually no chance of winning.
One thing you’ll notice, though, is that it’s not unusual to see a futures bet option with no favorites listed. In other words, every single moneyline on the board is positive. That’s not an accident; it’s due to the incredible amount of variables that can affect the outcome of the bet. Even for a favorite with the best chance of winning out of any team, the chances of anyone else winning are usually greater. It’s hard to win things. It’s hard to win futures bets, too. They can be a fun bet to make and an extremely casual way to show support for your favorite team. However, make sure that the bets you make on futures are not for rent payments or other necessities — there are just too many ways for things to go wrong.
Legal sports bets you can make in New York
At heart, most sports bettors are sports fans. They have their favorite teams, and those favorites are usually the nearest teams to their homes. It’s almost human nature to root for the hometown squads, and sports betting allows you to support them in more material ways.
New York is home to a plethora of professional sports teams from the four major leagues in the US. In addition, there are numerous colleges and universities across the state that compete at the highest level of intercollegiate play. There’s no doubt that New York sportsbooks see more action on these teams than others. Once online sports betting comes to the Empire State, there will be even more betting like this, even if the odds may not really justify it. Regardless, here are the home-state teams for New York sports bettors.
NFL betting in New York
New York itself is home to a single NFL franchise in Buffalo. However, in what will always be a bit of an oddity, two other NFL teams represent New York City, but play their games at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.
- Buffalo Bills: Bills Stadium, 1 Bills Drive, Orchard Park, NY
- New York Giants: MetLife Stadium, 1 MetLife Stadium Drive, East Rutherford, NJ
- New York Jets: MetLife Stadium, 1 MetLife Stadium Drive, East Rutherford, NJ
NFL games are the most popular betting vehicle in the US and one of the most flexible, in terms of the bets that are available. You will be able to bet the point spread, moneyline, and totals with ease. In addition, every NFL game likely will have dozens of live betting opportunities.
NBA betting in New York
Only two NBA franchises call New York home. Both are located in areas of New York City, and both compete for the hearts of the Big Apple.
- Brooklyn Nets: Barclays Center, 620 Atlantic Ave., Brooklyn, NY
- New York Knicks: Madison Square Garden, 4 Pennsylvania Plaza, New York, NY
Like NFL wagering, betting on NBA games is not a difficult thing to do. The high point totals in each game lend themselves to multiple uses for bookmakers, including the popular spreads, moneylines and totals. The NBA also features tons of statistics, and it’s always easy to find in game wagering options.
MLB betting in New York
The situation for MLB teams in New York is similar to that of the NBA teams. There are two teams, and both are in New York City. In fact, both New York MLB teams are among the most storied franchises in all of baseball.
- New York Mets: Citi Field, 41 Seaver Way, Queens, NY
- New York Yankees: Yankee Stadium, 1 E. 161st St., Bronx, NY
Betting on baseball games is certainly an option, but the relatively low scoring presents a bit of a quandary for some types of bets — notably, the spread bet. Sportsbooks in New York will usually offer the run line instead. The run line sets the spread at a fixed 1.5 runs for most games. As bets come in, rather than moving the line itself, the book will move the payout ratios. As such, the run line bet is a sort of hybrid between spread betting and betting on the moneyline. However, straight moneyline betting is always available on MLB games.
NHL betting in New York
Like most states in the northern portion of the country, New York is no stranger to cold weather or hockey. In fact, the Empire State has more NHL teams to bet on inside its borders than any state other than California. There are three teams that New Yorkers can call their own — two in New York City (as usual) and a third in Buffalo.
- Buffalo Sabres: KeyBank Center, 1 Seymour H Knox III Plaza, Buffalo, NY
- New York Islanders: UBS Arena, 2150 Hempstead Turnpike, Elmont, NY
- New York Rangers: Madison Square Garden, 4 Pennsylvania Plaza, New York, NY
Like baseball, hockey games tend to be low-scoring affairs in comparison to sports like basketball and football. Sportsbooks in New York and elsewhere use the puck line to function the same way as baseball’s run line. The spread is set at a standard 1.5 goals, and betting influences the payout ratio, rather than the line itself.
College betting in New York
New York is home to 22 universities with sports teams in the NCAA’s Division I, the highest level. Unfortunately, New Yorkers will not be able to wager on any of them unless they leave the state to do so.
According to NYSGC rules:
“An operator shall not offer wagers on any prohibited sports event, as defined in (the) Racing, Pari-Mutuel Wagering and Breeding Law section 1367(1)(f).”
A quick check of that law defines a prohibited sports event as “any collegiate sport or athletic event that takes place in New York or a sport or athletic event in which any New York college team participates regardless of where the event takes place.” It’s important to note that this rule does not just affect New York-based universities. Any college that plays a game in New York is affected. For bettors who want to wager on, say, a bowl game or March Madness, this rule could present a big problem.
Although it’s possible that the same prohibition might only be for retail sportsbooks, the reality is that there’s probably a philosophical disagreement at play here. Many other states, including nearby New Jersey, have similar prohibitions. Funnily enough, it may soon become necessary to cross into New Jersey to bet on New York colleges and cross into New York to bet on New Jersey colleges. That’s a lot of time in tunnels or on bridges, but there’s no other option for the enterprising college sports bettor.
What you can’t bet on in NY
In addition to the prohibitions on collegiate athletics, there are also a few other types of events that are strictly forbidden as material for wagering purposes. The most notable type of event that is not permitted is the “non-sports” event, as the law calls it. From a practical perspective, that means that bets on awards shows and political elections are off the table. There is no specific mention of these events, but they are the obvious target.
Less clear is whether eSports count as a “non-sports” event. The answer to that question is likely to come with the advent of online betting in the state. You also cannot wager on high school sports in New York. However, this rule is no surprise — it’s universal to every state with sports betting.
Finally, there is language in New York law that gives the NYSGC a great deal of latitude and flexibility when it comes to sports bets. It maintains the right to allow or disallow almost any form of betting.
History of sports betting in New York
As is the case with most states, New York’s history with sports betting is not terribly long. As it happens, the fact that it stretches all the way back to 2013 qualifies the Empire State as one of the oldest members of the group. However, since sports betting did not exist outside of backrooms and organized crime lounges before the 2010s, the section below is more of a recap of how we arrived at this point in New York.
Sports betting in New York came to life at the same time that its commercial casinos did. Both elements of legal gambling were part of the Upstate NY Gaming Economic Development Act in 2013. As its name implies, the law’s primary goal was to provide increased economic and career opportunities for communities in the northern portion of the state. In contrast to areas around New York City, the upstate area is far more rural, conservative, and less financially stable. Thus, the hope was that new casinos would be revenue generators in parts of the state that were struggling more than most.
The fact that sports betting made it into the text of the bill was a bit of a lark. Given the forbidden status of sports betting in the US under the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), legalizing wagering on sports was more of a symbolic approach. The law made it quite clear that the federal law against sports betting would have to fall before the practice would be active in New York in its very definition of sports betting:
“Sports wagering – The activity authorized by section one thousand three hundred sixty-seven of this article, provided that there has been a change in federal law authorizing such activity or upon ruling of a court of competent jurisdiction that such activity is lawful.”
At the time, there was no indication that this clause was anything more than wishful thinking. The government’s lawsuit against New Jersey for its sports betting law was still in its early stages, and New Jersey wouldn’t find any victory in court for several years. So, even though New York went ahead with sports betting under state law, nobody really thought much about it.
Until 2018, that is. Although New Jersey took loss after loss through the appellate courts, it finally managed to secure the attention of the US Supreme Court. The Garden State’s chief argument was that since it only repealed the law banning sports betting, rather than taking the affirmative step to approve it, the use of PASPA to keep New Jersey from opening sportsbooks amounted to commandeering, a practice forbidden by the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution. In other words, the US government cannot require states to enforce a law in conflict with existing state law.
The US Supreme Court agreed with New Jersey in May 2018. The 6-3 decision ended PASPA and reserved the question of sports betting for each state. All of the sudden, New York was a legal sports betting state. However, it wasn’t so simple as that. The decision meant that regulators had to scramble to put together rules for how sports betting — retail only, mind you — would proceed in the Empire State. It took the NYSGC just over a year to get everything together, but the rules for retail sports betting finally dropped in New York in June 2019. The first legal bet in the state occurred one month later at Rivers Casino Schenectady. In addition, the state’s federally recognized tribes with casinos — the Seneca, the Oneidas, and the Saint Regis Mohawks — each gained the ability to offer onsite sports betting, too.
The problem, of course, is location. You have to be onsite in order to place a sports bet. It is against federal law to bet over the phone, so New York City residents have to make the long drive to one of the state’s casinos to bet. The locations are such that people from the Big Apple would have to travel over an hour, no matter which casino they wanted to use. So, online sports betting has been a topic of discussion in New York ever since. Its tremendous profit potential — particularly in neighboring New Jersey — makes online wagering on sports a must-have. Yet, disagreements between lawmakers and Cuomo only served to exacerbate the issue. Cuomo pushed throughout 2019 and 2020 for a state-run system closer to that of New Hampshire or Rhode Island, while lawmakers wanted to have a more openly competitive model.
In the end, it would seem that Cuomo managed to prevail. The 2021-2022 state budget featured an online sports betting section that aligned extremely closely with Cuomo’s model. New York has one of the highest sports betting licensing fees in the country, more than doubling the amount set by next-door neighbor Pennsylvania for its PA sportsbook apps. It also tacked on another $5 million per year for server storage.
New York is the fourth-largest state by population and calls more than 19 million people its residents, so the raw potential is there for online sportsbooks. However, Pennsylvania — albeit with 7 million fewer residents — had to wait quite a while with considerably better terms for any sportsbook operator to bite on the offer. Although it’s nigh-unthinkable that companies would decline to deal with the Empire State, it will certainly be interesting to watch things unfold.