Governor Cuomo’s Evolution On New York Mobile Sports Betting
Since June 2018, New Jersey has been a sports betting hotspot. It was so attractive that when New York legalized sports betting in 2019, some New Yorkers still traveled to bet in New Jersey. New Jersey allowed mobile sports betting from the beginning, and New York didn’t. That was a dealbreaker for New York bettors. About a fifth of New Jersey’s sports betting handle came from traveling New Yorkers.
But after a year and a half of opposing it, yesterday Governor Andrew Cuomo voiced support for mobile sports betting. Here’s how he changed his mind on the issue.
Governor Cuomo’s Original Opposition
Governor Cuomo’s biggest problem with mobile sports betting was constitutional. He believed New York needed an amendment to the state constitution to allow mobile sports betting.
That concern didn’t come from nowhere. Every time New York has introduced a new type of gambling, they’ve needed to pass a constitutional amendment. New York has passed gaming amendments for:
- Pari-mutuel betting on horse racing in 1939
- Charitable bingo in 1957
- State lottery for education in 1966
- Charitable games of chance in 1975
- Casinos and sports betting in 2013
The 2013 amendment let New York casinos offer sportsbooks. However, New York wasn’t allowed to regulate it until the Supreme Court’s ruling on PASPA in 2018. That’s how New York allowed sports betting so soon after PASPA was ruled unconstitutional. But the language in the 2013 amendment only allowed casinos to offer sports betting. There was nothing about mobile or online sports betting. So, Governor Cuomo thought New York would need another amendment to allow mobile sports betting.
Solutions to the Constitutionality Problem
To get around the constitutional requirement, New York could place the servers that process mobile wagers inside the casinos. That’s been State Senator Addabbo’s recommendation throughout much of this dispute. If the casinos are processing sports wagers, then they’re still the ones in charge of New York sports betting. That’s consistent with the language in the 2013 amendment relegating sports betting to New York’s casinos.
Although Cuomo hasn’t released server details, New York’s Gaming Commission will require sportsbooks to partner with casinos. Those partnerships will likely perform regulatory functions, too. But it hints at a legal workaround to the constitutional amendment issue.
What’s Next For New York Mobile Sports Betting?
New York has a long way to go until bettors can wager on their phones. The New York Gaming Commission still has to write the rules that New York mobile sportsbooks will abide by. Sportsbooks will also have to send proposals to determine whether New York will allow them to operate. A lottery model could only allow one sportsbook operator or as many as can secure a casino partnership. Mobile sports betting’s success will hinge on the details of Governor Cuomo’s plans.
Governor Cuomo hopes to make more money for New York than for casinos. There’s nothing wrong with maximizing state revenue. However, the biggest pitfall he’ll have to avoid is clamping too tightly onto mobile sportsbooks. Inhibiting sportsbook innovation, competition, or profitability could backfire on Governor Cuomo’s goal of getting the most out of mobile sports betting that he can. But nothing in his proposals so far suggests that he’s doing that. All we have are preliminary statements that reveal his goals for mobile sports betting. It’ll be up to his office how mobile sports betting is implemented in New York. But announcing concrete goals for mobile sports betting is an exciting development for new sports bettors and grizzled sharp bettors alike.