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NBA, PGA support revamped plan to allow mobile sports betting in NY

The Cuomo administration has balked at a further expansion of gambling to include smart phones and other electronic devices.

ALBANY — NBA and PGA officials came to New York on Wednesday to urge legislators to legalize “mobile” sports betting, saying it would root out illegal gambling and prevent New York from losing potential revenue to other states. 

New York in January moved forward to permit in-person sports betting at existing casinos in the state. The Cuomo administration has balked at further expanding it to laptop computers, smartphones and other electronic devices because it says only casino-based gambling is legal now under the state constitution.

Legislators who support the gambling expansion say they have a way around that hurdle: Requiring that all mobile betting be routed through computer network servers at existing casinos and prohibiting it from being conducted through off-track betting centers and other casino “affiliates,” or sports stadiums.

Advocates say sports betting shouldn’t be limited to “in-person” wagers; otherwise the state will lose out to illegal gambling internet sites and other states, such as New Jersey, which rapidly have moved to expand sports gambling since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a ban in 2018.

“Having a competitive mobile marketplace in New York could cause consumers to shift whatever they are doing now with illegal, offshore sites,” Dan Spillane, an NBA vice president, said at the Wednesday hearing. Andy Levinson, a vice president with the Professional Golfers Association, also voiced support for a regulated gambling system.

Some legislators also pitched wider gambling as good for New York schools, arguing that’s where the money will go.

“This is really for our young people,” Assemb. James Gary Pretlow (D-Mount Vernon) said. He has sponsored the bill to allow mobile sports betting, along with state Sen. Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D-Ozone Park), and says a clear majority of the Democratic-led Assembly favors the expansion.

Under their bill, mobile sports betting would be allowed just at four upstate casinos authorized by voters in 2013 and, effectively, any Native American-run casinos in the state.

But Assembly officials said Democrats haven’t even discussed the proposal yet this year in their closed-door “conference” meetings, where decisions on legislation are made.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has been very cool to the idea of expansion.

“I’m not a fan … of the new mobile sports betting,” Cuomo said during a radio interview in March. He downplayed the amount of revenue New Jersey earned last year on it — $14 million — and said that amounted to a “rounding error” in the context of New York state’s $175 billion budget.

“So I don’t even think the economic benefit is there,” Cuomo said.

Kip Levin, an executive with the daily fantasy sports website FanDuel, said 80 percent of the sports wagering revenue in New Jersey is generated through mobile betting. Anyone of legal gambling age who is physically present in the state, visiting or otherwise, can make bets. 

Addabbo said supporters aim to have a “clarifying conversation” with Cuomo about how his bill no longer raises constitutional issues.

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