New York will lose out on hundreds of millions of dollars or more if it doesn’t authorize sports gambling on smartphones and other mobile devices, gambling supporters and analysts told state lawmakers at a hearing Wednesday.
Lawmakers at the hearing said they are eager to capture that revenue — which is currently going to illegal wagers or to states like New Jersey that have already approved sports gambling. They’ve introduced bills to authorize wagers on mobile devices and, eventually, in person at sports venues.
There’s one wrinkle: Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo argues such a move requires changing the state Constitution, a multi-year process that requires voter approval.
A U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year opened the door to sports betting outside Nevada. Since then, several states have legalized it and dozens are considering similar moves. In New York, sports wagers will begin at the state’s four non-Native American-owned casinos once regulations are finalized.
With lawmakers expected to conclude their annual session late next month, supporters of expanded sports betting are hoping there’s still time to pass legislation — even if it could face a veto by Cuomo.
“We can sit and watch it go by or we can do something about it,” said Sen. Joseph Addabbo, D-Queens, the chairman of the Senate’s Committee on Racing, Gaming and Wagering.
Attorney Daniel Wallach, an expert on laws on sports betting, testified Wednesday that a constitutional amendment is not needed. He noted that the state has tweaked its gambling laws before — adding remote horse betting, for instance — without changing the constitution.
“It’s up to state lawmakers,” he said.
Other experts told lawmakers that New York stands to lose up to $1 billion a year if it doesn’t follow New Jersey’s lead in permitting sports bets. Others testifying Wednesday included a representative from the NBA, who said professional sports leagues deserve to get a cut of the revenue from wagers.
Cuomo, so far, hasn’t changed his mind.
“We have constitutional concerns on this issue that we have raised for nearly a year,” said spokesman Jason Conwall. “Our position remains the same.”