Current Sports Betting Status: Legal
Updated on 7/24/2019
In 2013, long before the current sports betting expansion, New York passed the New York Gaming Economic Development Act. The law authorized the development of four casinos, each of which would be allowed to conduct sports betting – subject to it being legal under federal law.
So, when the Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in May 2018, New York was ready to go. Except it hasn’t – at least as far as mobile sports betting goes.
Although in-person legal sports betting became possible when two of the four commercial casinos launched sportsbooks in July, 2019, it is still illegal to wager online, unlike the neighboring states of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, which has been reaping the benefits of mobile sports wagering since the Garden State approved its legalization in June, 2018.
At one point, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo appeared to be holding up authorization to all legal sports betting due to an outstanding dispute between some of the New York tribal casinos and the state about how much gambling tax payment was owed. While this issue has been partially resolved, some tribal casinos are still ineligible to apply for sports betting permits.
The regulator is the New York State Gaming Commission, which had regulations ready to go in May 2018, when Acting Executive Director Ron Ochyrm said:
Commission staff has long been working on regulations that would effectuate sports gambling under the existing statutory language. Staff anticipates being able to provide a draft for your review in the near term
The gaming commission approved regulations governing legal sports betting in early June, 2019. The four commercial casinos, and some mid-state tribal casinos, were deemed eligible to apply for in-person sports betting licenses.
Other regulations state that bets can be made on sports such as professional football, basketball, baseball, hockey and soccer, as well as non-New York college sports. But legal sports wagers cannot be placed on New York college teams, nor collegiate events that take place in the state.
New York state legislature attempts to pass new laws in 2019
The state legislature remains undecided as to whether to pass new legislation on sports betting. In 2018 there was a debate over whether the sports leagues should receive an “integrity fee.” The fee is supposed to compensate the leagues for additional measures they may take to ensure fair games. In reality, it was more of an attempt to grab a piece of the pie.
The key issue left is the legalization of mobile and online sports betting. Current legislation restricts casinos to in-person sports betting only on the premises. Since most sports betting around the world and in the U.S. is now conducted online, this is a major issue.
New Jersey bettors wagered more than $3 billion on sports in the 12 months since it was legalized in June 2018 and more than 80% of New Jersey’s sports bets are placed online – a high percentage of which are made by residents of New York. New Jersey’s FanDuel Sportsbook said that 25% of its registered accounts belong to NY residents.
With the nearest on-site New York sportsbook over an hour and a half away from New York City, it is unlikely that Big Apple sports bettors will make the trek regularly to place a bet in person when they can zip over the New Jersey border and use a mobile app.
Pennsylvania has three state-wide mobile sportsbooks in operation and can also benefit from Empire State sports betting dollars from neighboring bettors in southern New York.
The New York state constitution is a problem
New York has online sports betting for horse racing, so in principle there should be no objection to mobile sports wagers. But, of course, that’s not how state politics works.
To enable legislation to allow mobile sports betting, New York would need to do one of two things:
- Pass a constitutional amendment which would delay online sports betting until 2021 at the earliest.
- Designate sports betting as a game of skill, evading the constitutional provisions against gambling.
In France, sports betting is considered to be a game of skill, as is poker. The French regulatory system doesn’t authorize games of luck except the lottery.
New York also has legal online Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS). The law to enable DFS also defined the activity as a game of skill. This is currently the subject of a legal challenge going through the NY court system.
The second option was deemed the best choice to speed up the legalization of online wagering and State Senator Joseph Addabbo filed SB18 in January 2019 with the intent of legalizing online poker. The bill defines poker as a game of skill to avoid the need for a constitutional amendment.
Assemblyman Gary Pretlow said that he would also support a sports betting bill in January 2019. The bill would be the same as the text of the bill he introduced in 2018. Pretlow is Chairman of the Assembly’s Racing and Wagering Committee, so he is the man to watch in the state’s lower chamber.
Hopes for the legalization of mobile sports betting were high in early 2019, particularly in light of the catastrophic condition of the state’s finances. Revenues from legalized sports betting were expected to be included in the state budget which is finalized in March.
Unfortunately, efforts to usher a 2019 bill legalizing mobile sports betting through the legislature before the end of June’s session were unsuccessful.
The bill passed the Senate but was left hanging in the Assembly at session’s end. Regardless, had the bill successfully passed the legislature, it likely would have stalled at the desk of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Cuomo has stated that he does not expect legal mobile sports betting to be legalized this year.
New York casinos authorized to launch sports betting
The four state-licensed, commercial casinos in upstate New York have each appointed a sports betting partner and have new, on-site sportsbook facilities that are either already in operation or are under construction and expected to open before the 2019 NFL season. These are:
- The Rivers Casino & Rush Street Gaming, in Schenectady, opened July 16, 2019.
- Tioga Downs & FanDuel,in Nichols. opened July 19, 2019.
- The del Lago Casino & DraftKings, in Seneca County, construction underway in July 2019.
- The Resorts World Catskills Casino & Bet365, in Monticello, construction underway in July 2019.
Over and above these, the Oneida Indian Nation has entered into a partnership with Caesars Entertainment. Under the deal the Oneida will launch Caesars-branded sports betting at its central New York casinos in the summer of 2019.
According to the tribal compact, this sports betting can’t start until the state authorizes all four of its own licensed commercial casinos, listed above. The agreement must also pass scrutiny from the National Indian Gaming Commission.
The Oneida Indian Nation plans to feature in-person sportsbooks at its three casinos located on tribal lands:
- Turning Stone Resort Casino, Oneida County, expected by August 1, 2019.
- Yellow Brick Road Casino, Madison County, expected by August 1, 2019.
- Point Place Casino, Madison County, expected by late summer, 2019.
The Saint Regis Mohawk Nation announced in July 2019 that it plans to open an on-site sportsbook at its Akwesasne Mohawk casino in Franklin County on the Canadian border by late summer or early fall 2019.
The Seneca Nation is considering the possibility of offering legal sports betting at its three western New York casinos in Buffalo, Niagara Falls and Salamanca. No further details have been forthcoming, however, due to an outstanding revenue sharing dispute with the state.