ALBANY — A U.S. Supreme Court ruling Monday allows states to legalize betting on sports, and legislators are scrambling to modify New York’s regulations to take advantage.
The gambling industry also hailed the ruling, and Rush Street Gaming said it would add sports gambling at its Schenectady casino as soon as possible.
When and under what terms the option would be added was unclear Monday. In a statement, the Gaming Commission said: “We are reviewing this morning’s decision and its potential implications for the State of New York.”
There are now four non-Indian casinos in New York, all less than 18 months old. The 2013 legislation authorizing their operation specifically forbids them from offering sports betting — unless a court rules it is lawful. And that’s exactly what happened with the 6-3 Supreme Court ruling on Murphy v. NCAA, according to Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow, D-Mount Vernon, chairman of the Assembly Racing and Wagering Committee and an author of the 2013 legislation.
So sports gambling is now legal at New York casinos, though individual casinos must first obtain regulatory approval from the state Gaming Commission. But some changes to the 2013 law are likely before the Gaming Commission considers any applications.
Pretlow told The Daily Gazette on Monday that the tweaks the Legislature is considering would allow sports gambling at OTB parlors and on websites, as well as at casinos. It’s important, he said, that sports betting be allowed at more places in New York than just four upstate casinos.
“I don’t see a lot of people in Queens driving up to Monticello to bet on a Yankees game ... so they will continue to do a lot of the illegal betting that’s going on,” he said.
Sen. John Bonacic, R-Mount Hope, chair of the Senate Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee, said the state has been preparing for this moment and has progressed to the point that he predicts both houses of the Legislature will agree on a sports gambling bill and send it to Gov. Cuomo by the end of the legislative session next month.
During a conference call with reporters Monday, American Gambling Association President and CEO Geoff Freeman called Monday a “monumental day” for the legal gambling industry and said it spells trouble for the massive illegal sports betting industry. If governments, broadcasters and the sports industry work together, the illegal sports betting industry can be sidelined and legal sports betting can take its place, with the added benefit of tax revenue for the government, he said.
The value of illegal sports betting in America is hard to estimate, but a 1999 study commissioned by Congress placed it anywhere from $80 billion to $380 billion.
Freeman pegs the value at $150 billion.
He said he could not comment on the state's regulatory structure because it’s such a moving target. He added, though, that New York’s casinos support legalized sports betting and want to offer it because they believe it is complementary to slot machines and card games, not competitive with them. Casino operators think offering both types of gambling under the same roof will boost, rather than dilute, revenue.
In a prepared statement, Greg Carlin, CEO of Rush Street Gaming, owner and operator of Rivers Casino & Resort in Schenectady, said:
“It’s exciting news for the consumer, the industry and the states. In addition to providing sports enthusiasts with a better, safer environment, today’s Supreme Court decision will redirect revenue previously lost to the black market and instead generate much-needed tax revenue at state and local levels. We look forward to adding sports betting across all our gaming platforms as soon as possible.”
How much tax revenue legal sports gambling will generate was unclear. Freeman made the point that a high tax rate would discourage sports bettors from leaving their bookies.
Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy, whose city would directly benefit from increased activity at Rivers, made the same point:
“We can’t overtax things,” he said.
(Bonacic’s legislation calls for an 8.5 percent tax on sports gambling, plus an integrity fee of 0.25 to 2 percent.)
Regardless, McCarthy hailed the Supreme Court ruling.
“The attitude toward gaming has changed over the last few decades,” he said. The ruling continues that change, and “Schenectady is well-positioned to take advantage.”
He said he looks forward to working with legislators and industry officials to make it happen as soon as possible.
The federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 halted the spread of legal sports betting beyond Nevada and three other states that allowed it at the time. New Jersey challenged that law by attempting to legalize sports gambling, and with Murphy v. NCAA, New Jersey won its case.
Freeman said the gambling trade organization considers the ruling a victory for consumers, fans, taxpayers and athletes.
He said it could yield $8 billion in tax revenue, which on a $150 billion pot would be only a 5 percent tax rate, as opposed to the roughly 9 to 10 percent rate Bonacic proposes.
Responding to other journalists’ questions, he said:
- The best way to protect the integrity of sports is to get gambling out in the open and have all parties agree on its rules.
- Handled correctly, the entire $150 billion illegal sports betting market can be captured, and then grown.
- Legalization should not increase addiction, as those who want to bet on sports already do and their bookies are not interested in helping them overcome their addictions.
- Support will grow for legalized sports betting faster than with any other form of gambling recently.
- Will legalization take weeks or months or years? Yes, yes and yes. Each state is different. New Jersey likely will move instantly, other states will be ready in time for the 2018 NFL season, others will take longer.
Rivers Casino & Resort in Schenectady reported improved revenue in April, according to the state Gaming Commission.
Data for all four of New York’s non-Indian casinos was reported Monday by the comission.
Rivers recorded $13.38 million in gross gaming revenue in April 2018, its 14th full month in operation. It was the third-highest revenue month for the casino, after March 2018 ($13.79 million) and March 2017 ($13.59 million).
On this revenue, it paid $4.45 million in gaming tax to the state, of which $225,195 each went to the city and county of Schenectady as host communities' benefits.
April marked the most revenue received -- and the most tax paid -- by any of the four casinos; Rivers is third-largest of the three, as calculated by the number of slot machines, table games and poker tables.
- Del Lago Resort and Casino paid $3.81 million in tax on $12.46 million in revenue. April was its seventh-best revenue month ever.
- Resorts World Casino paid $2.92 million in tax on $10.83 million in revenue. April was the second-best revenue month for Resorts World, which opened Feb 8.
- Tioga Downs Casino paid $2.39 million in tax on $7.11 million in revenue. April was its second-best revenue month ever.