Those hoping for progress with online sports betting in the US state of New York received a boost this week due to comments made by the state governor, Andrew Cuomo.
During a briefing, the governor suggested that online sports betting may offer a way to help the state raise much needed new revenue as it faces a significant shortfall of funds for its latest budget. During the briefing, which was broadcast on US television and also focused on the COVID-19 pandemic, Cuomo appeared to open the door to online sports betting as an option for its budget.
“Are there other ways to get revenue? How about marijuana? How about sports betting?”
To be accurate, this was far from an open endorsement for the introduction of online sports betting in the state. But it could be significant as it may represent a change of mind on the part of the governor. Prior to these comments, Cuomo’s position appeared to be that he was opposed to the legalization of remote sports betting in the state as it would require a constitutional amendment. But its mention in this context as a possible solution to the financial shortfall could be significant.
The state of New York already permits residents to bet on sports events at physical casinos, but legislators have not been able to progress the issue of online betting.
Yet, it seems the mounting financial crisis in the state may be bringing online sports betting back into the conversation as the governor contemplates how to proceed with the state budget.
In his address, Cuomo outlined two possible budget approaches. The first would be to draw up a budget over the next few days. The alternative would be postponing the budget decisions until the spring when the state may know whether it will be receiving federal assistance to help it address the revenue shortfall. According to the governor, the second option was preferred, but that would not rule out the addition of online sports betting to a range of 2021 budget proposals.
While there may be doubt over the best way to tackle the budget problem, there is no doubt over its scale. Between money owed by state and local government, New York was already more than $50 billion in debt back in October. While Cuomo might hope that federal funding will come to the state in the New Year, there is no guarantee, given the upheaval in Washington, and the possibility that the Republican Party may continue to hold the US Senate.
In that context, the fact that neighboring state New Jersey made $50.6 million in revenue from sports betting in November alone may make the issue hard to ignore. That revenue takes translated into $6.2 million worth of taxation going into the New Jersey state coffers. Adding further pressure on Cuomo and the legislators in New York is the likelihood that a considerable slice of that New Jersey revenue comes from New Yorkers crossing the border to have a bet. In fact, one analyst has estimated that New York betting customers gambled over $800 million in New Jersey in 2019.
Cuomo has for some time being the most significant roadblock to mobile sports betting in the state, but following his comments, some feel that his opposition may have melted.
According to Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr, it was unlikely that progress could be made before the end of 2020, but he was optimistic that something could be done legislatively in the first quarter of 2021.