With the state budget deficit expected to approach $60 billion in the next four years, and with no guarantee that Congress or the new Biden Administration will bail out New York with a large enough financial relief package, the state can’t afford to leave a single revenue dollar unexplored.
That’s why the Legislature must finish what it started and allow mobile sports betting in New York.
The expansion of sports gambling in New York would help the regional casinos, including Rivers in Schenectady, help fill state coffers through taxes and licensing fees, and capitalize on an untapped $150 billion industry that many people are already participating in: betting on sports online.
Allowing mobile sports betting also would help the state recover gambling revenue that is going to other states such as New Jersey, where mobile sports betting its already legal, popular and generating millions of dollars for other states.
The mobile gambling works with technology to only allow betting online from within the jurisdictions where it’s legal.
Gamblers from New York, particularly those who live close to New York City, are known to drive into New Jersey and park by the side of the road or in parking lots, where their smart-phones allow them to make bets.
State Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, a member of the Assembly’s Racing and Wagering Committee, is pushing a bill (A6113/S00017), which would set up the regulatory structure to complement New York’s already available, but limited, access to online betting.
Santabarbara and fellow local Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner are among the co-sponsors of the bill.
New York allows betting on sports, but only in the casinos.
With COVID restrictions in place that limit in-house capacity to 25 percent, not only is revenue from sports betting down in the casinos, but the limitations also cut into their revenue from slots and table games.
There’s really no good reason for the state to hold back on the natural progression toward online betting.
People are already doing it outside state purview.
Even when you go into the casinos to bet, you’re essentially gambling online when you use one of the kiosks.
With the sports gambling system already established through the casinos, the state wouldn’t be starting from scratch and could implement it fairly easily.
And the casinos that need the revenue would still benefit from it, even without people going inside casinos to bet.
For problem gamblers betting outside a government system, there is no protection for them should they get in over their heads financially.
With state oversight, there are safety valves that might trigger awareness and intervention.
And the state Gaming Commission would likely put in other safeguards and regulations once lawmakers pass the bill.
From a convenience point of view, the COVID situation has pushed many activities to smart-phones and online, including school and work.
Allowing people to bet online instead of going to a building to bet is a natural progression of our newly adopted lifestyles.
To be sure, this is not the cure for the state’s budget woes.
But with so much revenue to make up due to losses in sales tax revenue and business, the state needs to explore every potential source of income.
Allowing mobile sports betting is one such opportunity.