Santabarbara: It’s time for legal mobile gambling

Angelo Santabarbara - File

Angelo Santabarbara - File

ALBANY – With the state frozen out of receiving general federal financial aid in the new federal economic stimulus package, Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara said it’s time for the Legislature to approve on-line mobile sports betting in New York state.

The idea deserves new consideration because of the multi-billion-dollar deficits New York is facing next year and for several years to come, Santabarbara argues. Making online gambling legal would generate new revenue for the state.

“With businesses operating under socially distancing guidelines, health and safety restrictions and doing all or some of their business virtually and online, now is the time for New York to take the next step and move forward with mobile sports betting,” Santabarbara said on Tuesday.

Sports betting at facilities like Rivers Casino & Resort in Schenectady only became legal in 2019, and the sports room at the casino was doing well until the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the casino in March. The casino has since been allowed to re-open, but is limited to 25 percent in-person capacity to avoid virus spread.

State Sen. Joseph Addabbo, D-Ozone Park, and Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow, D-Mount Vernon, the respective chairs of the racing and wagering committees in their chambers, have also called for renewed consideration on online sports wagering in 2021.

Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, is a member of the Assembly Racing and Wagering Committee. He said online sports bets would be handled through servers located at the state’s four upstate licensed casinos, including Rivers, giving casinos a piece of the action while also generating revenue for the state.

“The additional revenue to the state would be coming at a time when more funding is needed to support our schools and provide much-needed aid to our local communities, making it a win-win once again.”

Legislation to legalize online betting has been introduced in both the Senate and Assembly. Co-sponsors in the Assembly include local legislators Carrie Woerner, D-Round Lake, and Chris Tague, R-Schoharie.

New Jersey has mobile sports betting that kept operating through the closure of physical casinos, and has so far generated $257 million in revenue this year for the state of New Jersey. He believes mobile betting could generate even more in New York state.

The legalization of in-person sports betting at casinos in 2019 marked the first time sports betting has been legal in New York, though illegal underground sports betting has been going on for decades, if not centuries.

Santabarbara said mobile sports betting isn’t a “silver bullet,” but could be part of a larger package to close the state budget deficits.

“As a member of the Assembly Racing and Wagering Committee, I urge my colleagues in the Legislature to prioritize this measure in the upcoming session,” Santabarbara said.  “The longer we wait on this, the more we lose out on a market that’s generating significant revenue in other states and could be part of the solution to address this year’s budget gap.”

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has so far been reluctant to endorse the idea, though he has complained loudly about the lack of financial help from the federal government for cash-strapped states like New York.



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