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Time running out for online sports betting, other measures in Albany

State Senate Minority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport)

State Senate Minority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport) and State Senate Deputy Minority Leader Joseph Griffo (R-Utica) on Tuesday. Their chamber approved online sports betting late Monday. Credit: AP/Hans Pennink

 ALBANY — A last-minute push to legalize online sports betting appeared all but dead, lawmakers and officials indicated Tuesday, the second-to-last scheduled day of the 2019 session of the State Legislature.

It was one of a handful of remaining high-profile issues that were in limbo with one day to go in the session. Among those, activists at the State Capitol were making a concerted effort to prompt lawmakers to severely restrict the use of solitary confinement in prisons.

Other bills included ones to remove a ban on paid “gestational surrogacy” and to designate the attorney general’s office to handle any cases involving a police officer shooting a civilian. 

Among local bills affecting Long Island, lawmakers are considering measures to install state monitors to oversee the Wyandanch and Hempstead school districts and to order a comprehensive review of the Hempstead police department amid a corruption scandal.

A bill to triple the number of video slots operated by Suffolk Off-Track Betting Corp. faced long odds.

Some New York lawmakers have been pushing online sports betting since the U.S. Supreme Court in 2018 struck down a ban on gambling on sports in most states. Earlier this year, the state Gaming Commission approved regulations that allow sports gambling at four upstate casinos — but only in person. Cuomo has said online gambling would be illegal unless lawmakers amend the state constitution to allow it.

Gambling supporters said that’s too restrictive. They proposed legalizing online sports betting with bets placed through computer servers at the four upstate casinos.

The State Senate approved online sports betting late Monday, 57-5. But the Democratic-led Assembly still had no plans as of late Tuesday to even discuss the issue internally, officials said. Further, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said staff attorneys had questioned whether lawmakers could legalize sports betting without amending the state constitution.

Heastie (D-Bronx) pointed out the limited time left in the session and said of betting: “So I don’t know what’s going to happen with that.”

Conversely, the Assembly is the driving force behind restricting solitary confinement. At issue is a bill that would prohibit a prisoner from serving more than 15 consecutive days in solitary.

But the Senate has concerns about fiscal implications, a source said, and Cuomo, in a radio interview, said it could spark the need to build more prison cells, which he opposed.

“What the current proposal does, however, is it mandates that the state and local jails build a new type of jail,” Cuomo said.

Sen. Luis Sepulveda (D-Bronx) challenged Cuomo’s claims. Writing on Twitter, the senator said: “This bill will not create new jails” and because of previous criminal law and sentencing changes, the current solitary “population will be drastically decreased, further lowering the cost of these programs.”

State & Region