The journey towards online sports betting in New York has become more complicated. With a shorter 2020 legislation session on the calendar, to coincide state office primaries with US House primaries, New York residents, particularly those downstate, hoping to bet on sports via an online platform, face a continued uphill battle.
Online or mobile sports betting hasn’t been the hot topic floating around New York’s capital of Albany, with lawmakers choosing to prioritize other issues such as social services, wage increases, and veterans affairs. In addition to the shortened legislative session resulting in a shorter time frame for New York State legislators to discuss and pass legislation for the 2020 calendar year, the New York State Gaming Commission failed to select a company to conduct a sports betting study, a critical piece of moving New York closer to allowing online sports betting. According to the Times Union, Albany’s primary newspaper, “Industry insiders and state lawmakers anticipate the study will prompt a shakeup of the state’s gambling rules and regulations, potentially leading to the development of three casinos in the greater New York City area.”1
State Gaming Commission Executive Director Rob Williams indicated “concern” regarding the “aggressive timeline” that “might result in compromised data” as it relates to advising on future [online sports betting] policy determinations.”2 Casinos, sports betting, horse racing and off-track betting corporations all have a stake in the commissioned study that will look at all forms of gambling across the state. Lawmakers are hoping that this study will provide evidence that there is a large enough market for online sports betting in New York. The new study, expected to be completed by June 1, 2020, represents a change for New York, which didn’t pursue a similar study prior to introducing video gaming terminals in 2002 or Las Vegas style casinos in 2013.
This year, the New York state legislature passed legislation allowing four casinos, Rivers, Tioga, del Lago and Resorts World Catskills, to allow betting on sports. All four casinos are located in upstate New York. The currently enacted legislation does not allow betting by computer or smart phone, and gamblers must be physically at a facility to make a bet. Gamblers are not permitted to wager on college sports in New York or any college events held in the state. A mobile sports-betting bill that would have allowed betting by smart phone passed in the Senate this year, but was defeated in the Assembly. A new bill will be introduced next year.
Over the past year, New York’s neighbor, New Jersey, has grown into the largest sports betting market in the country. This growth is in no small part because of its proximity to New York City. In fact, FanDuel Sportsbook at the Meadowlands Racetrack has become one of the top-grossing retail sports books in the country. The Sportsbook sits less than a half-hour drive from Manhattan and right beside MetLife Stadium, where the NFL’s New York Jets and New York Giants play. To illustrate this point, New York’s current sports betting business, which is only available in-person at the aforementioned four upstate licensed casinos, has increased its pace and posted a total of US$2.3 million in revenue for the month of September, compared to New Jersey’s US$37.9 million in revenue for the month of September.3
Without online and mobile wagering, New York is unlikely to realize the full potential of its sports betting market. In New Jersey, more than 80 percent of sports wagers are placed via online and mobile devices. Accordingly, New Yorkers will continue crossing the Hudson River to place bets in New Jersey. As per Jason Robins, CEO of DraftKings “Online and mobile [betting] is what people want, especially for those in Manhattan, where it’s a bit of a hike to drive up there [to an upstate New York casino].”4 Robins is working hard to make it happen and remains optimistic it will get done in the next year or so.
 Gambling Commission Restarts Search for Firm to Conduct Gambling Study, Times Union, David Lombardo, September 10, 2019, https://blog.timesunion.com/capitol/archives/287983/gaming-commission-restarts-search-for-firm-to-conduct-gambling-study/
 Queens Senator Believes the Time is Now for Mobile Sports Netting in New York, Qns.Com, Bill Parry, October 22, 2019, https://qns.com/story/2019/10/22/queens-senator-believes-the-time-is-now-for-mobile-sports-betting-in-new-york/.
 DraftKings CEO On Legalized Sports Betting In NY: 'I'm Hoping It Happens Soon', WFAN Sports Radio, Mike’s On, August 19, 2019, https://wfan.radio.com/articles/draftkings-ceo-provides-update-ny-sports-betting-push