With an existing budget shortfall worsened by the pandemic, lawmakers are again pressing to allow mobile sports betting as a means of generating State revenue.
As of today, sports betting is only legal in New York as long as the bettor is physically present on the grounds of certain in-state casinos. By contrast, a mobile sports bet would be placed on a website via an electronic device, such as a computer or cell phone. New Jersey has already passed legislation legalizing this form of betting and, as a result, New Yorkers have been crossing state lines to place bets via their smartphones (geolocation software is utilized to determine whether a mobile bet was placed in-state).
While the idea was proposed in years past, it was always met with staunch opposition from Governor Andrew Cuomo, who cited to the many social ills associated with gambling. The concept also met opposition from casinos, some of which expressed concern that online sports betting would detract from in-person business at brick-and-mortar casinos.
In light of the massive deficit brought on in part by the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Cuomo appears to have changed his tune. However, under his proposed structure, the casinos are unlikely to sing along. By way of explanation, most states that permit mobile sports betting, including New Jersey, essentially allow casinos to run the operations. By contrast, Governor Cuomo has proposed that the State lottery would be responsible for mobile sports betting.
Even with the backing of Governor Cuomo, mobile sports betting still faces an uphill battle. For one, there is existing gaming compact giving tribal casinos the exclusive right to certain types of gaming in exchange for a percentage of revenues. Moreover, there is a provision of the State Constitution prescribing that sports gambling take place “at no more than seven” casinos, and whether a mobile sports bet takes place “at” a casino has been the subject of debate.
It remains to be seen whether the Governor’s support will provide mobile sports betting the momentum it needs this time around. If so, proponents suggest it may prove a valuable revenue source for the State at a time when a multi-billion-dollar budget gap has the State and its businesses facing tough roads ahead.