New York’s sports betting backers are changing their approach to pass a long-frozen effort to legalize online wagering, but this latest move could leave one region out in the cold.
Earlier this week two of New York’s leading gaming advocates in Sen. Joseph Addabbo and Assemblyman Gary Pretlow introduced amendments to a sports betting legalization measure in their respective chambers in hopes to finally advance the bill. Lawmakers should be familiar with the crux of the new adjustments, but a new twist could alter the state’s gaming landscape at the expense of Western New York's largest city.
New Approach Could Freeze Out Western Region
The amendment allows the state’s four upstate commercial casinos as well as its tribal casinos to set up online betting platforms. This right would further extend to off-track betting corporations as well as certain professional sporting venues.
The approach to include an affiliate program has reappeared in this new amendment after being axed in an earlier proposal. Otherwise, the framework of the amendment resembles the original proposals offered by Addabbo and Pretlow in key ways. It continues to allow the state’s four casinos and tribal gaming centers to accept in-person wagers on sporting events immediately after enactment.
But In its current version, it would be entirely up to the state’s indigenous tribes and commercial casinos whether or not and to what extent they can participate in the mobile betting landscape. That means the OTBs and tracks want to participate, they will have to pay the casinos’ asking prices.
Meanwhile, stadiums in counties with an OTB or a race track wouldn’t be eligible. That would prevent stadiums in Buffalo, the state’s second-most populated city, from taking bets.
That would leave New Era Field, home to the Buffalo Bills, as well as the Buffalo Sabres’ home arena, KeyBank Center, left out of the betting-taking opportunity. Downstate, Citi Field, home to the New York Mets, would also be excluded.
Conversely, two of the state’s most high-profile venues in Madison Square Garden and Yankee Stadium would be allowed to take bets.
Western Regional OTB President Henry Wojtaszek told The Buffalo News that while his industry appreciates the legislature trying to include them, they desire to see more favorable language in the bill.
And the OTBs aren’t the only potential player not thrilled with the newest proposal.
A statement by Pegula Sports and Entertainment, which operates the Bills and Sabres, decried what it perceives as inequity based on geography.
Obstacles to Widespread Online Betting
If passed, Sports betting at approved affiliates would likely take place via internet kiosks. Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s support for online betting is still a question, however.
In a recent radio interview, Cuomo expressed he believes online betting could be legalized before the end of the current legislative term, but a statement from his administration denoted his stance that a constitutional amendment is required to do so hadn’t changed.
A constitutional amendment would take years to pass. If Cuomo sticks to his position and vetoes any bill that would legalize mobile betting because of his stance, the result could be a delay of several years for online sports betting in any form.
For all parties looking to cash in on sports betting any further delay means more lost potential revenue. That includes the state. The pressure is on the legislature to come up with a proposal that satiates Cuomo’s concerns and mitigates the interests of potential competing operators.
Doing that has to this point involved proposing ideas and then tweaking them, as evidenced by the reintroduction of the affiliate program.