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Senator eyeing NY sports betting bill after court ruling

ALBANY — A key state senator on Wednesday said New York lawmakers are likely to take up legislation to consider allowing sports betting soon after the U.S. Supreme Court rules on New Jersey’s attempt to legalize it there.

Sen. John Bonacic (R-Mount Hope) said he’s looking to “tailor” proposed sports-betting legislation based on the outcome of the New Jersey case, a ruling expected this spring.

“There’s a general acceptance of sports betting now — everybody’s doing it,” said Bonacic, chairman of the Senate Racing and Wagering Committee, which handles all gambling legislation. Citing the potential revenue to the state, he added: “It’s real money and we need it wherever we can get it.”

Bonacic’s remarks followed a hearing on the topic he conducted at the State Capitol, featuring testimony by an NBA executive as well from horse racetrack operators, casino operators, gambling “security” experts and organizations that fight gambling addiction. With the exception of the latter, the witnesses voiced support for allowing sports betting in New York — provided they have some say in the matter and a cut of the revenue.

Dan Spillane, a vice president and counsel for the National Basketball Association, told senators the league’s “position on sports betting has evolved in recent years.” The league has reversed its opposition, supported a repeal of a federal ban on it in most states, and advocated a “comprehensive sports betting bill that would serve as a model for a 50-state solution — whether that happens in Congress or on a state-by-state basis.”

“Our conclusion is that the time has come for a different approach that gives sports fans a safe and legal way to wager on sporting events while protecting the integrity of the underlying competitions,” Spillane said.

Among other things, gambling operators should pay leagues such as the NBA 1 percent of the total amount bet on its games, Spillane said. And the league should have a say in what kind of bets are allowed so as to ban wagers on elements that could be subject to rigging, such as who commits the first foul of a game.

Christopher Kay, CEO and president of the New York Racing Association, which operates horse racing at Belmont, Aqueduct and Saratoga, urged lawmakers to allow tracks to offer sports betting if the state legalizes it. He referred to tracks’ fear that sports wagering would be allowed only at casinos.

“If we’re not included, we’re going to be hurt,” Kay said.

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