Mobile sports betting a possibility in state budget: Local experts weigh in

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — As we wait for NYS to release it’s budget plan for next year – one controversial topic lawmakers are debating right now is a possibility of mobile sports betting.

Todd Harrison – department chair of Sports Management at St. John Fisher College says think of this like an app on your phone. You make an account, add a certain amount of money on it, and bet on sports games of your choice. He says the question right now isn’t a matter of if it will be legal, but how it will be rolled out.

Governor Cuomo’s proposal is similar to how the state lottery works. All revenue goes toward the state lottery fund, “There is some component of that money that is set aside to help for problem betting or other education components,” he said. The governor’s plan would have one gaming company head all the activity and infrastructure.

His proposal is similar to the state of New Hampshire’s. They sought out one single provider to oversee all the infrastructure and activity – in this case that’s DraftKings – a betting-operation company.

On the other hand, some in the legislature want a different plan that would involve several gaming companies that can compete with each other at once. Companies can team with casinos for activities, allowing casinos to make profits as well. However, Harrison says the most likely scenario is Governor Cuomo’s proposal.

Proponents say it would be an economic boost, and if people are already finding ways to do it illegally, why not regulate it.

“It’s not as if Joe the gambler wasn’t doing it because it was illegal, he found ways to do it. But this would regulate it and bring money out of the shadows,” he said.

Opponents say gambling is already very accessible, and being able to do it from your couch would just kick it up another notch.

Craig Johnson – gambling counselor with Mind Evolution says for years, gambling is something people can get addicted to.

“The person is not able to really stop, I hear this often, ‘I was up $1,500 bucks but I lost it all’,” he said.

Severe addictions could lead to someone borrowing money again and again, asking people to bail them out, financial problems, and depression. Those occasional wins, Johnson says, are what keeps someone going.

Before anything is finalized in the state budget, Johnson says it’s important to have a conversation about these risks now.

“A lot of times things in the budget slide under the rug without a lot of discussion of long term implications,” he said.

There are resources in the region for those who do struggle with gambling addiction: Catholic Family Health, Finger Lakes Problem Gambling Resource Center and DePaul National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence to name a few. As for Monroe County, Catholic Family Center is the sole agency offering treatment specific to gambling addiction on an outpatient basis. Both individual and group counseling is offered in-person or remote / via telehealth.

The governor says mobile sports betting could generate $500 million dollars in revenues for our state.

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