State of the State: Vague Mobile Sports Wagering Details

Legal mobile sports betting in New York is hot on the state’s legislative agenda, but some people with vested interests in the industry and sports bettors in general were left with not much detail to ponder after Gov. Cuomo delivered his State of the State address on Monday morning.

Mobile Wagering Needs Legalization

Ahead of his annual speech, Cuomo signaled his long-term position regarding the issue of mobile wagering legislation in the state was changing, put under pressure to seek for every additional source of revenue to fill the huge budget hole over the next 4 years.

While Cuomo’s position regarding the need of a constitutional amendment eased, the operating model he hinted about was one in which mobile wagering has only one platform provider.

Cuomo’s idea contradicted with current legislative efforts from Sen. Addabbo and Assemblyman Pretlow who filed bills in Senate and Assembly to allow commercial and tribal casinos the right for 2 sports betting skins, pushing the possible number of operator licenses to 14.

State of the State Address Lacked Details

In his State of the State address, Cuomo acknowledged the revenue potential from legalizing mobile sports wagering as it would keep in house millions of funds which currently fuel the market in New Jersey and helps it set record after record in single-month sports betting handle.

“We propose state-sponsored mobile sports betting to raise additional revenue… by legalizing online sports betting, we aim to keep millions of dollars in revenue here at home, which will only strengthen our ability to rebuild from the COVID-19 crisis.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo

New York has the potential to become the top sports betting market in the country, and even the most conservative projections estimate at least 1 billion in total wagers per month for the Empire State, noted Daniel Wallach, attorney from a law firm focused on the growing sports betting industry.

Short-Term Revenue at the Expense of Long-Term Issues

The governor’s model, while lacking in details, is certainly different from the one operating in neighboring New Jersey, Wallach continued, highlighting that the single-operator approach suggested by Cuomo may turn out to be a jackpot win for the state budget.

Operators would have to offer their best to outbid each other and would push up tax revenue for the state to the maximum, Wallach suggested, hinting that these short-term benefits would come at the expense of long-term shortcomings.

A single-platform model first and foremost would deprive state bettors from a choice of operator and would provide for lack of competition and no incentive for the operator to offer its best proposition to players. Besides, the offer of a lucrative share to the state would have to be offset by a higher operator margin.

Another issue for New York would come from the fact that the model would leave so many important players including horse racing operators outside of the market, which, according to Wallach would open the door for litigation at a cost much higher than revenues from mobile wagering.

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