The federal ban is lifted, and now some are saying sports betting in New York could be closer to reality
The Supreme Court lifted the federal ban on sports betting in May — but when New York state would open the books was more of an open question.
"The legislative session this year is drawing to a close," said Governor Andrew Cuomo, "So I wouldn't expect any action this year."
Cuomo was not alone in being skeptical of a state-wide sports betting solution being reached this year. Local lawmakers also seem content taking it slow.
"What we want to do first is make sure we get it right," said Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle, D-Rochester, "in the sense that we want to ensure there is no chance of anyone gaming the system. We want to make sure there's integrity."
However, the 2013 law that created four state-licensed casinos leaves the door open for those — including del Lago in nearby Seneca County— to soon begin taking bets.
"The Supreme Court's decision appears to have triggered this provision," said Ron Ochrym, the acting executive director of the New York State Gaming Commission.
"As a side note, commission staff have long been working on regulations that would effectuate sports gambling under the existing statutory language," he said.
Those regulations are the final hurdle before bets can begin at Del Lago and the three other state-licensed casinos.
"Staff anticipates being able to provide a draft for your review in the near term," said Ochrym.
The commission meets every two months, so does "near term" mean this summer? A spokesperson for the commission wouldn't elaborate on the comments.
While the law doesn't include racinos like Finger Likes Gaming & Racetrack in Farmington or Batavia Downs in Batavia, del Lago is certainly watching closely.
"There are things that would have to be done by Del Lago," said del Lago spokesman Steven Greenberg. "But again, if and when the Gaming Commission moves forward on those regulations, del Lago will work as expeditiously as possible."
Regulations would have to have a public comment period, which will delay the process, but Greenberg says del Lago is excited by movement toward being able to offer sports betting.
"This is Albany," says Greenberg, "Things in Albany don't always move the way that people in Rochester, or Buffalo, or Syracuse or Long Island think they should move, but we're watching the process and are eager to move forward."
The Oneida Nation, which operates Turning Stone Casino east of Syracuse, says it plans to offer sports betting in the "very near future."
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.
Delaware will begin full-scale sports betting next week. Full-scale sports betting will begin at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday at Delaware's three casinos, officials said Thursday. The offerings will include single-game and championship wagering on professional baseball, football, hockey, basketball, soccer, golf and auto racing. That means Delawareans will be able to make legal wagers on the NBA finals, which could run through June 17 if the championship series goes to a seventh game. Delaware was able to get a quick start because of prewritten sports betting legislation that was passed in 2009 and a pre-existing wagering system that offers multigame parlay bets on National Football League games.
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.
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.
Messenger Post Media, along with our news partner, News 10NBC will continue to keep a close watch on both the Legislature and the state's gaming commission as sports betting gets closer to becoming a reality in the Finger Lakes.
Includes reporting from The Associated Press