Gaming Commission approves sports-betting rules

Rivers Casino & Resort hopes to offer sport wagering in late summer
The entrance to the Rivers Casino & Resort in Schenectady is pictured.
The entrance to the Rivers Casino & Resort in Schenectady is pictured.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that wagering on horse racing will not be allowed at the state’s four casinos, including Rivers Casino in Schenectady. Under the terms of a prior agreement, Rivers will continue to offer Off-Track Betting horse racing terminals.

SCHENECTADY — New York state’s gambling regulators on Monday approved rules allowing four upstate casinos, including Rivers Casino & Resort in Schenectady, to offer wagering on the NFL, Major League Baseball and other professional sports.

The state Gaming Commission, meeting Monday in New York City, without discussion approved a set of rules for in-person sports betting that have been under review since March.

While there were 19 public comments during a 60-day public comment period, commission Executive Director Robert Williams said most were minor wording changes, and nothing was substantial.

Rivers is already getting ready. In May, it started construction on the 5,000-square-foot “Rivers Sportsbook” betting lounge, located just off the main gaming but in a separate area, as the new rules require. The lounge will be ready in July and will be open for sports viewing from then until the state grants the license to start taking bets.

“We’re very excited about the commission vote today and it puts us one step closer to offering sports betting,” said Justin Moore, Rivers’ acting general manager. “We will work hand-in-hand with the commission to be sure we are complying with all the regulations.”

Rivers must now submit an application under the new rules. Moore said he would like to be able to start taking bets at the lounge in late July or early August so staff and customers can get acclimated before action picks up with the NFL season.

“Sports betting will be a tremendous complement to all that Rivers Casino has to offer,” Moore said.

The “Sportsbook” lounge will include a 53-foot-wide, nine-foot-tall LED video wall, 22 TV monitors, 16 betting kiosks, and six staffed betting windows. There will be table seating for about 80 people, and five private TV booths each accommodating up to six people.

Advocates believe legal sports betting will pump new cash into the coffers of New York state and of upstate casinos, which have struggled to live up the original rosy projections of their 2013 casino license bids. The rules allow only in-person betting, and there are no provisions for allowing online gambling.

Rivers is part of Rush Street Gaming of Chicago. Two sister casinos, SugarHouse Casino in Philadelphia and Rivers Casino Pittsburgh, already offer sports betting, and Rush Street Interactive would be the sports pool operator for all the operations..

Earlier this year, Moore said that based on his experience when he worked in Las Vegas, the Super Bowl is the No. 1 betting opportunity this year, followed by the opening and then Final Four of college basektball’s March Madness and then the NFL’s opening weekend. Golf, soccer and boxing are also among the sports that the casino would like to take bets on.

Straight win/loss, total point and parlay bets — picking the winners of multiple games in a single bet — are also expected to be offered, Moore said.

“The reason why it’s popular is people have really good chances of winning,” Moore said. “If you’re a sports fan, you can put a little money on the game and make it even enticing to watch.” 

The rules allow betting on all professional sports, subject to each league and type of bet being approved by the commission. It would prohibit betting on amateur sports except for some college contests; however, betting in sports involving New York state-based colleges — whether Syracuse basketball or Union hockey — will still be prohibited.

The new sports-betting rules do not apply to horse racing, which is regulated separately. Rivers Casino will continue to offer Off-Track Betting horse-racing terminals

The other upstate casinos authorized to allow sports betting are Del Lago in Seneca County, Resorts World Catskills in Sullivan County, and Tioga Downs in Tioga County.

Legalization in New York follows a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, a federal statute that restricted state-sponsored sports betting to primarily Nevada. Since the ruling, legal sports gambling has opened in neighboring New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Other states have also legalized it or are expected to do so.

The 2013 state law that allowed the four upstate casinos included a provision that said they could offer sports betting if federal law ever changed to allow it.


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