Sports Betting a Go in New York

The Gaming Commission has approved regulations that will allow the state’s four upstate commercial and seven tribal casinos to begin taking bets this summer. As expected, remote betting won’t be in the mix since Governor Andrew Cuomo (show at left with Senator Joseph Addabbo, who supports mobile betting) believes it requires a constitutional amendment to be approved. And with the legislature set to adjourn, that’s a battle that will have to wait until next year.

Sports Betting a Go in New York

The New York Gaming Commission has voted to approve regulations for allowing the state’s four upstate commercial casinos to take in-person wagers on sporting events.

The four—Resorts World Catskills in Monticello, Rivers Casino & Resort in Schenectady, Tioga Downs near Binghamton in the Southern Tier and Del Lago Resort & Casino in the Finger Lakes—have been preparing for months for the OK and are expected to be ready to lay odds and accept bets when their official licensing comes through around August 1 in time for the start of the college and professional football seasons.

Del Lago has partnered with DraftKings, a major operator of betting and fantasy wagering, to run its book. Resorts World Catskills has hooked up with Britain’s bet365, a British online gaming giant. Tioga Downs is partnering with Paddy Power-Betfair, another industry leader, also headquartered in the British Isles, and its U.S. fantasy sports arm, FanDuel. Rivers will operate with Rush Street Interactive, a division of its Chicago-based parent company.

They’ll likely be joined this summer by the Oneida Indian Nation’s three central-state casinos anchored around the tribe’s flagship Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona. The tribe has struck a partnership with Caesars Entertainment to manage the books. The Seneca Nation’s three casinos in Buffalo, Niagara Falls and Salamanca will likely follow suit with their own operations, as will the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe’s casino in the northeast of the state near the Canadian border.

The commission’s 6-0 vote makes New York the 13th state to regulate some form of sports betting since a May 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling struck down a federal ban that had been in place since 1993 and which exempted only full-scale betting in Nevada and limited parlay-style betting in the three other states (Oregon, Montana and Delaware) that offered it at the time the ban went into effect.

As expected, however, the rules delineate a considerably narrower market than betting advocates have sought. Players can only make bets in person at the sports books. Betting remotely by computer or mobile phone is prohibited and games played by New York college teams or on collegiate events taking place within the state will be off-limits. The casinos also will need to get regulatory approval for the types of bets they want to offer, including in-play wagering.

But supporters won a key battle with the commission’s refusal to make the sports leagues’ proprietary data mandatory for settling bets, which would have forced the books to pay the leagues royalties.

Which leaves remote betting as the big sticking point. Advocates point to the fact that where it’s allowed, remote betting is by far the option of choice for consumers. In neighboring New Jersey mobile currently accounts for more than 80 percent of handle. An industry expert testifying last month before the state Senate’s Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee estimated that around 95 percent of New York’s handle would similarly be generated online if it was available. Without it, he said, the market at full ramp-up will struggle to surpass $50 million in annual volume, of which the casinos could expect to win, on average, around 5 percent.

With the legislature set to adjourn on Wednesday, advocates continue to push bills sponsored in the Senate by Queens Democrat Joseph Addabbo and in the Assembly by Westchester County Democrat J. Gary Pretlow that would allow remote betting, but the prospects look hopeless in the face of opposition from Governor Andrew Cuomo, who holds to the position that gambling online requires an amendment to the state Constitution, a difficult and lengthy proposition that would have to pass successive sessions of the legislature and win voter approval in a statewide referendum.

In a bid to compensate, Addabbo, who chairs the Senate’s Gaming Committee, has amended his bill with language that would allow all the state’s major professional sports stadiums and arenas to offer satellite books in affiliation with the casinos. The provision, which would take effect 20 months after the bill is signed into law, is an obvious attempt at an end-around on the remote ban, since the satellites would require internet connections to operate. Nonetheless, Addabbo said he believes he can get his bill to the Senate floor for a vote before Wednesday.

But Pretlow, who chairs the Assembly’s Racing and Wagering Committee, has acknowledged that the sentiment in the lower house is far less friendly.

“There’s still, as far as I can see, not much movement for doing this.”