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Cuomo proposes state-run mobile sports betting. How it would work

Joseph Spector
New York State Team

ALBANY – Who needs casinos to run mobile sports betting? New York could do it itself.

That was the proposal laid out Wednesday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whose administration hopes the state could bring in $500 million a year by allowing New Yorkers to bet on sports on their mobile devices.

Cuomo's proposal would be to allow the state Lottery Division to develop and operate a mobile sports betting system. Casinos would have a partnership with the state through a new state operator, but it wouldn't be a casino-run system.

New York has legalized sports betting, but only in person at four upstate casinos. The proposal will be part of Cuomo's State of the State address on Monday.

"Many states have done sports betting, but they basically allow casinos to run their own gambling operations," Cuomo said at his briefing at the state Capitol.

New York wants to legalize mobile sports betting in 2021.

"That makes a lot of money for casinos, but it makes minimal money for the state. And I’m not here to make casinos a lot of money. I’m here to raise funds for the state, so we have a different model for sports betting."

Cuomo has been leery of allowing mobile sports betting, saying in previous years that it might violate the state constitution.

But with a $13 billion budget gap for the fiscal year that starts April 1, the state is in desperate need of new revenue.

Under Cuomo's proposal, the state Gaming Commission will issue a request for proposals to select and license a sports operator or platform to offer mobile sports wagering in New York.

The operator would then have to a partnership with one of the existing licensed commercial casinos. The state would also require any entity operating mobile wagering apps to include safeguards against abuses and addiction. 

He said mobile sports betting and legalizing marijuana will be two revenue raisers he will pursue in the coming months with the state Legislature, which would have to approve any plan.

And lawmakers will surely have their own take on letting the state rather than casinos run mobile sports books. It appears casinos would likely get a piece of the action, but not to the extent they hoped.

Casinos and their high-powered lobbyists have been pushing for years to allow mobile sports betting as a way to boost their own struggling operations, particularly amid the COVID-19 pandemic that shuttered their facilities for months.

“We are encouraged by Governor Cuomo’s most recent statements regarding sports betting in New York," Matt King, CEO of the FanDuel Group, said in a statement.

"We are keenly interested in reviewing the details of the proposal and look forward to legislation that creates a competitive mobile marketplace.”

More:Buffalo Bills, Sabres owner wants fans to be able to bet at games

More:Will New York add new casinos? Here's what Cuomo just said about it

New York has 20 casinos and horse tracks with video-lottery terminals. All of them want to add mobile sports betting and will undoubtedly fight Cuomo's plan.

New York also has a moratorium on new full-scale casinos in the New York City area until 2023 as a way to help the upstate casinos develop their businesses.

Downtown casino interests have been pushing to lift the moratorium, but Cuomo has resisted and again Wednesday threw cold water on the idea.

"I haven't given it any consideration," Cuomo said.

As for mobile sports betting, state Budget Director Robert Mujica said states that have legalized it haven't reaped the windfall as much as the casinos. Under the state's plan to run the system like the Lottery, the state would get more money.

"Otherwise for the bettors, it’s seamless and it’s exactly the same," Mujica said. 

"The only difference is the state gets the money versus others."

Joseph Spector can be reached at JSPECTOR@Gannett.com or on Twitter @GannettAlbany.

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