New York punters giving big boost to NJ online gambling revenue

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New Jersey online casinos and sportsbooks are profiting from an influx of players from neighboring New York, where internet gambling is not yet legal. However, selected elected officials in NY are hoping that situation will change in the near future.

Speaking at the recent gambling expansion roadshow in Manhattan, state senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. stated, “I’m hoping that 2020 is the year.” Assemblyman Gary Pretlow echoed those sentiments.

Mobile gambling remains a hot topic in New York, but constitutional concerns have headed off any and all attempts at legalization. Meanwhile, neighboring New Jersey has reaped the benefits from New York players crossing the border.

Assemblyman Pretlow stated at the roadshow that officials for Yonkers Raceway in Westchester County and Aqueduct in Queens let him know that they would fork over the huge fee of $500 million in order to turn those two racinos into larger casinos with sportsbooks. New York bars that from happening until 2023, when the state will issue three more racino licenses.

Senator Addabbo wants to know why the wait is so long.

“We wanted to give the four upstate casinos a chance to get up and running first. But in retrospect, we have three licenses bringing in zero revenue and zero jobs,” he said.

“I’m hopeful that we will start to discuss — maybe we’ll even have a hearing — what we are doing with these three other licenses. What good are they sitting on a shelf? Why not start thinking about utilizing them in 2020 or 2021?”

If the bill that Addabbo has proposed is passed, sports betting may be implemented at other racetracks in the state such as Saratoga Springs and Belmont.

None of this will happen until the Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, changes his mind. He has said that a constitutional amendment would have to be in place in order for sports wagering to go from land-based casinos and racinos to the internet. However, there was no amendment a decade ago when online betting for horse racing.

There was no sports betting vote in the statehouse in 2018, but in the spring of 2019 the New York Senate voted 57-5 despite the fact that there was already a bill for betting expansion in the state. Pretlow said he had the Assembly votes, but Speaker Carl Heastie chose not to call for a vote, as he said it would be vetoed by Cuomo.

“I don’t know what [Cuomo’s] opposition is about,” Pretlow said in a recent interview.

“He came up with the idea that the Gaming Commission would do a study, and the results were supposed to be due in late November or early December. Then they changed [the deadline] and now the results aren’t due until April or May — after the budget gets done.

“I suppose now he has an excuse: ‘Let’s wait and see what the study says.’ I know what the study is going to say: ‘Let’s do it.'”

The Albany legislature comes back together in January 2020, but the calendar for the year ends in June.

“Hopefully this comes up the first month and we can put it in the budget,” Pretlow added.

“If I can get a constitutional scholar to come out with a strong opinion to say that [mobile sports betting] is constitutional, that may sway him. But I don’t know any constitutional scholars who want to go against the Governor.”

Cuomo has seemed skeptical of the two racinos and their promises to pay the $500 million fee.

Addabbo has stated that approval by the commission for the state’s sports betting regulations and the opening of four new casinos in the summer of 2020 may help the issue moving forward.

“I used to say that New York is the disabled car on the side of the road, not moving at all while we watch other cars pass us in the left lane, the right lane, the middle lane,” Addabbo said of neighboring states such as New Jersey and Pennsylvania fast-tracking sports betting.

“I can’t say that anymore – now we’re on the shoulder, or the right lane, I guess. We might only have three wheels, but we’re in the traffic even as cars still pass by us.

“Are we going to go down the same road with three wheels in the right lane, waiting for those three wheels? Or are we going to fix that car, get in the left lane, and step on the gas?”

In shedding light on why online wagering would work in New York, Pretlow and Addabbo have repeatedly referenced the success of the Meadowlands Racetrack. Situated just across the Hudson River in the same East Rutherford complex where the New York Giants and New York Jets play their NFL games, Meadowlands is an easy option for NYC gamblers.

New York’s sports betting revenue for September was $2.3 million, while New Jersey raked in some $38 million. Of that, it is estimated around $9 million came from NY residents betting in the Garden State.

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