Lawmakers Ponder Sports Betting And Face A Deadline
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York state could become one of the nation's leading sports betting markets — but time is running out for lawmakers who want to authorize wagering on athletic events this year.
With only three weeks remaining in the legislative session, supporters of authorizing sports betting are hoping to fast track legislation that would impose regulations and taxes on the industry. But others, including Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, argue there's not enough time to work out the details.
Sports betting emerged as a top issue when a May 14 ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal law prohibiting most states from allowing wagering on athletic events.
Several of New York's neighbors on the East Coast were ready to act. Lawmakers in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware already have passed measures to legalize and regulate sports betting, and legislation is pending in Connecticut, Maryland and Rhode Island. Closer to home, the Oneida Indian Nation announced plans to offer sports betting on their land in central New York. The Nation now operates three casinos.
Unless New York wants to be left behind lawmakers should act this year, said Republican Sen. John Bonacic of Orange County, the sponsor of legislation that would authorize wagering in casinos and online. A similar bill is poised for introduction in the state Assembly.
"We're moving forward," he said. "All the states around us are going to do it. The Native Americans are going to do it. We've done all our homework. It would be a lost opportunity for the state of New York if we don't."
Bonacic estimates that his proposal would raise between $10 million and $30 million for the state annually though taxes on betting revenue. Other estimates put the number much higher: a 2017 report commissioned by the American Gaming Association projected that New York could raise more than $100 million a year if it allows wagering at casinos and on mobile phones. The study concluded that only Texas and California stand to make more.
Casino operators, lobbyists and professional sports leagues all have weighed in on the debate, with former Yankees manager Joe Girardi meeting with lawmakers on Wednesday to urge lawmakers to pass the bill this session.
If lawmakers in Albany do nothing, it's possible the state's Gaming Commission could write regulations to allow sports betting at casinos. The 2013 ballot question that authorized new upstate casinos included a provision permitting gambling facilities to offer sports wagering if the federal ban was ever rescinded.
While lawmakers like Bonacic are eager to pass legislation some key lawmakers aren't as enthusiastic. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie on Wednesday echoed the concerns of gambling critics who worry that legal wagering will lead to higher rates of problem gambling. Still, Heastie vowed to leave the decision to his colleagues.
"My personal opinion? I'm not a big fan of gambling, but it's legal here in the state," Heastie said.
Cuomo has yet to release a proposal on sports betting but earlier this month he dismissed talk about passing a bill this year, saying the issue was too complicated to resolve in the time remaining.
"Nothing's going to happen this year because there's literally just a number of days left in the legislative session," he said.