Cuomo Moves The Goalposts On Mobile New York Sports Betting With Lottery Suggestion

Written By Derek Helling on January 6, 2021
Online New York sports betting Cuomo lottery

The evolution of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on mobile sports betting looked like it may have reached its apex, then he regressed seemingly as quickly as he had progressed. Cuomo plans to include the legalization of online sports betting in New York in his policy proposals for 2021. His latest idea for how to get that done represents another potential roadblock, though. On Wednesday, Cuomo floated the idea of running online sports betting through the state lottery instead of casinos or any other gambling entities in the state.

“We want to do sports betting the way the state runs the lottery where the state gets the revenues,” Cuomo said, via Legal Sports Report. “Many states have done sports betting but they basically allow casinos to run their own gambling operations. 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.”

A whole ‘lotto’ love

In other states, like New Hampshire, the lottery is the regulatory body for online sports wagering.

In theory, a system ran by the state lottery might be better in some ways. Even that depends on how it’s run, though. The big issue is the legality of running online sports betting through the state lottery.

The NY Constitution makes a clear distinction between what types of gambling casinos and the lottery can offer. Essentially, the lottery can only offer forms of gambling based on random chance. It would be quite an act of contortion to pass online sports betting off as something purely based on random chance.

That means an enactment of this kind of framework would likely meet an immediate challenge from casinos in the state, if not other parties as well. Most likely, the plaintiffs would win that suit.

The bottom line is that for a few hours on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning, it looked like Cuomo had finally come around. If he insists on running this through the lottery, he may have done nothing but move the goalposts.

So, do things look good for legalization in NY in 2021?

Currently, there are two pre-filed bills to this very end in Albany. It’s uncertain how much support there is for either in their current state, however.

Cuomo hasn’t been the only obstacle. For example, in 2020 a bill passed by the NY Senate never saw the floor in the state Assembly. Of course, Cuomo’s support could move things in the lower chamber.

If the legislators can iron out the other issues like the location of servers and tribal operators’ possible claims, a bill could come up for a vote shortly thereafter. That’s especially true if it’s part of a budget bill with Cuomo’s support.

Replacing billions in lost tax revenues

Cuomo said in the NY Daily News report that any new source of income would be attractive as the state looks for ways to replace billions of dollars in lost tax revenues.

“At a time when New York faces a historic budget deficit due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the current online sports wagering structure incentivizes a large segment of New York residents to travel out of state to make online sports wagers or continue to patronize black markets,” Cuomo said.

Through 2020, Cuomo was obstinate on the issue. It wasn’t that he opposed legalizing online sports betting but rather insisted on the method. Cuomo felt that the only path to expanding legal sports betting in the Empire State was through a constitutional amendment.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a lead writer for PlayUSA and the manager of BetHer. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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