Mobile sports betting up in the air in NY

ASSOCIATED PRESSFootball fans watch the action on wall-mounted video screens in the sports betting lounge at the Ocean Casino Resort in Atlantic City, N.J.

NEW YORK — New York is unlikely to approve statewide mobile sports betting anytime soon.

Despite a push from lawmakers who favor letting people bet on their phones or laptops, sports betting remains restricted to in-person wagers at upstate casinos.

At the Sports Betting USA conference Tuesday in New York, two Democratic lawmakers who have been pushing for legal sports betting said they’ll try to put a provision in the state budget allowing mobile sports betting when the Legislature convenes in January.

But Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo continues to question whether such betting is constitutional.

“It’s not a question of if; it’s when,” said state Sen. Joseph Addabbo Jr. “It’s going to happen. People want to bet in New York. They don’t want to get in the car and drive two hours upstate, and they’d rather not get in the car and go over the bridge to New Jersey, but they’re doing that now.”

When New York might offer statewide mobile betting remains anyone’s bet. It is quickly becoming the industry standard in the U.S., with 80% of New Jersey sports betting revenue coming via smartphones or laptops.

Addabbo and Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow said a report on the pros and cons of mobile sports betting was supposed to have been released within the next few weeks but has been delayed until April.

“I know what the report’s going to say: It’s going to say, ‘Do it,’” Pretlow said.

New York would be the largest state to have full-blown sports betting. It and California represent the holy grail for the nascent sports betting industry, which is currently led by Nevada, with New Jersey nipping at its heels.

California could hold a legislative hearing on sports betting by the end of November. But in addition to lining up political support, lawmakers in the Golden State must also reconcile their desire to offer sports betting with a fear from tribal casinos that poorly crafted legislation could hurt their business.

A bill for mobile sports betting in New York passed the Senate but was not approved in the Assembly, due in part to worries that Cuomo would veto it.

A spokesman for the governor said Tuesday that since May 2018, Cuomo “has consistently said he has constitutional concerns with mobile sports betting.”

In the meantime, New Jersey’s fast-growing sports betting industry continues to reap millions from New Yorkers driving, taking a train or even riding bicycles across bridges just far enough into New Jersey for geolocation technology on their betting apps to recognize that they are within the state’s borders.

Pretlow estimated that 30% to 40% of money currently being wagered in New Jersey would be bet in New York once the state approved mobile betting.

Daniel Wallach, a Florida attorney and expert on sports law, said New York would be a perfect market for in-stadium betting. A provision that would have allowed pro sports stadiums and arenas to offer sports betting on their premises was included in the bill that died in last year’s session.

“Imagine Madison Square Garden not just as the ‘World’s Most Famous Arena’ but as the world’s most famous sports book,” he said. “A casino or racetrack sports book holds a few hundred people. (Madison Square Garden) holds 20,000.”

Jamaal Lesane, senior vice president for legal and business affairs with The Madison Square Garden Company, said, ‘We’ll get there eventually.”

Lesane said the Garden has been in talks with supportive elected officials and Cuomo’s office to express support for a mobile sports betting bill, adding, “We are cautiously optimistic.”

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