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Foss: Time to consider online sports betting?

Foss: Time to consider online sports betting?

Foss: Time to consider online sports betting?
Photographer: FILE PHOTO BY MARC SCHULTZ

Two million dollars is nothing to sneeze at.

If someone gave me $2 million, I'd jump for joy. 

But it's a pittance in the world of sports gambling, and I doubt the paltry sportsbook sums generated by New York's four upstate commercial casinos have inspired anyone to break out the champagne glasses.

That's because New York's sports betting revenues trail every other state's, and you don't have to go very far to realize just how much money the Empire State is losing out. 

New Jersey generated $37.9 million in sports betting revenue in September — the same period that saw New York's casinos bring in $2.2 million. 

New Jersey has generated over $284.6 million in sportsbook revenue since June 2018, when sports gambling went live in the Garden State. New York has generated just over $6 million in sports gambling revenue in the past four-plus months, according to a report by Syracuse.com. 

The issue is one of timing, but also restrictions. 

New York didn't legalize sports gambling within its borders until this year, and its sportsbook revenues lag behind states that launched sports gambling earlier.

But the state also makes it harder to gamble. 

In New York, bettors must go to a commercial or tribal casino to place bets.

In New Jersey, online betting is allowed — and consumers take full advantage of it: Many of these online bets are made by New Yorkers who travel to eastern New Jersey for the convenience of placing bets via smartphone, according to an Esquire magazine piece. 

"Other states have been reluctant to embrace (online sports gambling) in an effort to drive gamblers toward the traditional brick-and-mortar houses of sin, like casinos and racetracks," the article notes. "Their mistake: In New Jersey, mobile betting accounts for a whopping 82 percent of the state's overall handle." 

It's clear New York is missing out on a lot of sports betting revenue — one industry observer, Chris Grove, told Syracuse.com that "New York will only realize 5% of its true sports betting potential if things stay as they are now." 

I'm not sure it's a bad thing if New York trails other states in sports gambling revenue. 

When I see how much New Jersey's gaming industry is generating in sportsbook revenue, I can't help but marvel at the sheer amount of money lost by bettors. 

But I also wonder whether New York's overly restrictive approach to a popular activity has much of an impact beyond driving gamblers across the border, to spend their money in New Jersey. 

I'm no fan of gambling, but perhaps it is time for the state to take a good, hard look at legalizing online sports betting. 

Ten other states have legalized sports gambling, and they're all handling more bets and generating more revenue than New York. 

Of the four upstate casinos, Schenectady's Rivers Casino has gained the most from sports betting thus far. 

Rivers has generated about $2.9 million in sportsbook revenues, compared with $1.7 million at del Lago, $998,000 at Resorts World and $525,000 at Tioga Downs. 

Fans have flocked to Rivers to bet on NFL football, and the casino's gross gaming revenue for October was $14.7 million, up from $12.1 million in October 2018. 

That's a nice little boost for Rivers, and it's likely due to the popularity of sports betting.

But it's not a big difference when you look at the larger picture. 

I don't know that I want to see New York join Nevada and New Jersey as the country's meccas of sports gambling, but the state is losing out on needed revenue. 

If New York is going to allow sports gambling, it ought to at least try to get the most out of it. 

Reach Sara Foss at [email protected]. Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper's. 

 

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