New York Sports Betting Wrinkle Could Add More Casinos, Online Gaming

  • SB 17 would enumerate tribal rights to offer sports betting at reservation casinos.
  • The bill would also authorize statewide online sports wagering.
  • The Cuomo administration opposes the measure but will consider the legislation if it advances.

ALBANY, N.Y. – In the runup to the official launch of New York’s sportsbook operations in its four upstate commercial casinos, there have been two interesting and potentially impactful developments in the New York statehouse.

Both of these issues have been raised by the state’s chief legislative gambling advocate, Sen. Joseph Addabbo, Jr. (D-15). Addabbo is the chairman of the Committee on Racing, Gaming and Wagering.

Addabbo’s gaming expansion legislation, SB 17, is currently being debated in the New York State Assembly.

The bill has been thoroughly amended in cooperation with Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow (D-89), and it would confirm the rights of New York’s three casino-operating tribal nations to offer sports wagering at their properties in the state.

Additionally, the proposal could lead to statewide online wagering launching earlier than previously thought.

How Many New York Casinos Could Offer Sports Betting Under SB 17?

Addabbo’s new legislation would enumerate the existing compacted rights of the Seneca Nation of New York, the Oneida Indian Nation, and St. Regis Mohawk to offer sports wagering products.

These three tribes oversee Class III gaming operations in the state, which allows them to effectively provide any casino amusement that their commercial counterparts are allowed to offer. This now includes sports betting.

Under SB 17, the number of sports wagering venues available to the public would expand from the four upstate venues to at least 12 throughout the state. If sports wagering is also allowed at Class II venues, this number could climb to more than 20 physical locales where New York sports bettors could place wagers.

Addabbo’s bill seeks to acknowledge and render into specific law the above tribes’ rights to offer sports wagering, though it takes things one step further by throwing in online sports wagering, as well.

Is Online Betting Really In The Cards?

While the above is somewhat of a formality given the New York tribes’ inherent sports wagering rights, Addabbo’s bill faces its primary hurdles in its application of online sports betting.

Ever since the four upstate commercial venues were built with sports wagering in mind, the pastime has been viewed as an economic booster.

The Resorts World Catskills (Monticello), Tioga Downs Casino Resort (Nichols), Rivers Casino & Resort Schenectady, and the del Lago Resort & Casino (Waterloo) are all underperforming financially, and sports betting exclusivity has been viewed as a life-preserver by many in the legislature.

As such, New York lawmakers have been largely reticent to entertain statewide online sports betting at this time, as such could cannibalize much-needed traffic to these struggling venues.

Thus, conventional wisdom has held that online sports betting would not be broached by the State Assembly for at least another year or two.

Nevertheless, Addabbo’s proposal would authorize online wagering immediately, and the commercial and tribal venues in the state would each be empowered to offer their own online books to bettors throughout the state.

Geo-fencing technology would be used to bar Internet-based wagering in tribal exclusivity zones if any tribe declines to offer the pastime to their casino’s patrons.

Today’s Hearing On SB 17

The issues addressed by Addabbo’s revised bill are scheduled to be debated later today.

No representatives from the Cuomo administration are expected to attend the hearing, despite the scheduled appearances of major players throughout the state’s sporting and gaming industries, including reps from the NBA, PGA, NFLPA, New York gambling venues, local tribes, and others.

Cuomo officials have suggested that their lack of attendance is a scheduling issue and not an indication of bias for or against Addabbo’s legislation. However, it is known that Gov. Cuomo is personally against the idea of widely-expanded sports wagering.

Jason Conwall, a Cuomo spokesperson, reiterated the state’s executive position on the matter.

“We have constitutional concerns on this issue that we have raised for nearly a year, and our position remains the same. We will review the revised bill.”

Gov. Cuomo has long insisted that any online gaming expansion would require approval via voter referendum. Many state lawmakers dispute this interpretation, and today’s hearing on SB 17 should help clarify where the legislature generally stands on the issue of sports betting in New York.

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