Sports betting in New York and why it is delayed


n the weeks since the U.S. Supreme Court gave the green light for all states to offer legal sports betting, there’s been a lot of talk about how and when New York will get it started: and for all the talk, there hasn’t been a lot of action. 

And while the Supreme Court decision did clear the way for all states to join Nevada in offering sports books, it’s still up to each state to decide how to proceed.

Currently, New Jersey is moving forward. While it also faces unresolved issues, its state legislature is debating bills today and may have a law in place by the end of the week. That could bring sports betting this summer to locations like Atlantic City’s casinos and the Monmouth Race Track.

In the case of New York, there is a state law -approved in 2013- that sets the groundwork for legal sports betting in the state. It came in the wake of the public referendum that year allowing new non-Indian nation-owned casinos to operate in areas not covered by gaming pacts with Indian nations. A portion of that law allows the four non-Indian casinos that have opened in Upstate New York since late 2016 to operate sports books, assuming the federal ban was overturned, as it was on May 14.

So if the Supreme Court ruling allows states to have sports betting, and there is a state law in place, why hasn’t it happened yet in New York?

First, the 2013 law is just the framework for the State Gaming Commission to write specific regulations and decide how and when to issue licenses to operate. The commission is working on those regulations, an agency spokesman has said. Additionally, the law doesn’t address the issue of sports betting at Indian nation casinos.

State lawmakers are working to update and amend the 2013 law before the state legislative session ends on June 20. That may be difficult, especially in the Senate, where a stalemate has slowed the work of writing and passing new bills. And Gov. Andrew Cuomo has suggested there may not be time to do it this year.

Meanwhile, lobbyists representing anyone with a stake in sports betting -including former New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi- descended recently on the state Capitol.

These are some of the questions that lawmakers and others are wrestling with as they review the 2013 law and try to set up New York’s sports betting rules:

Who can offer a sports book? Under the 2013 law, only new commercial casinos not operating under compacts with Indian nations can host sportsbooks. For now, that means only Rivers Casino & Resort in Schenectady, Resorts World Catskills near Monticello, del Lago Resort & Casino in the Finger Lakes and Tioga Downs in the Southern Tier.

Do bettors need to be physically present at the casinos to wager? Under the 2013 law, yes. But lawmakers are re-writing provisions to allow remote locations that could be affiliated with one of the four authorized casinos. The Senate version, for example, would allow betting kiosks affiliated with the authorized casinos to be set up at the state’s eight racinos (horse tracks with slots). State officials are considering whether to expand such kiosks to off-track betting parlors, racetracks etc.

What about online betting? The 2013 law says bettors must be physically present at the casinos’ sports lounges to place a wager. But versions of bills in both the Senate and the Assembly would allow online betting – via smartphone or other devices — to take place from elsewhere in New York state. It’s likely that bettors would be required to initially sign up at one of the authorized casinos. Some state officials believe allowing online betting is the only way to combat illegal betting on the internet.

What can you bet on? The 2013 law prohibits betting on games played by New York college teams (like Syracuse University) or on sporting events taking place within New York state — a New York Yankees game in the Bronx, for example, or a Buffalo Bills game in Orchard Park. Lawmakers are considering eliminating those bans but keeping the prohibition against betting on high school games. In both the existing law and the bills now under review, betting would be allowed on both outcomes of specific games and on what is known as “in game” wagers, such whether a batter will hit a home run next time up or whether a football team will score before halftime.

Will the pro or college sports leagues get a cut of the action? The Senate bill now under consideration gives the leagues a percentage it calls an “integrity fee,” while the Assembly bill calls it a “royalty.” It appears that will likely come to about .25 percent of all wagers, if it makes the final versions.

Whose data will be used to settle bets? This may be one of the most contentious issues to be hashed out. The sports leagues want only their own data and game statistics to be used. There are arguments from the potential sports book operators that they be allowed to use third-party data.

What is the state’s cut? The bill written by state Assemblyman Gary Pretlow sets the state’s tax on sport bets at 8.5 percent, similar to other proposals.

What about the Indian nations? As always, this is another contentious issue. Three nations — the Oneidas, the Senecas and the Akwesasne Mohawks — operate casinos under compacts with the state that are separate from other state gaming law. The nations are authorized to offer gaming in specific geographic regions without fear of competition from non Indian operators.

The Oneidas have been the most vocal since the Supreme Court ruling, arguing their compact allows them to offer sports betting at their casinos in Central New York as long as it’s legally available at other state casinos. They have not given a timetable for starting the sports books, but they say they need no further state approval.

The Indian nations have also raised concerns about whether online sports betting could violate the exclusivity they have in their regions.


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