ew York's casinos could begin taking wagers on sporting events as soon as April after state regulators took a key step Monday toward authorizing sports betting, though not on mobile devices.
The state Gaming Commission voted to preliminarily approve regulations for sports wagering at the state's four private casinos, a move that will kick off a 60-day public comment period before they can take effect.
Once the rules are finalized, sports betting would also be authorized at Native American-run casinos, including those in Buffalo and Niagara Falls, which are generally allowed to offer any gaming offered by the private casinos.
Betting won't be offered on mobile phones, however: A 2013 state law only allowed sports wagers from people who are "physically present" in the casinos.
The absolute earliest the rules can be finalized will be mid-April, clearing the way for casinos to begin taking wagers on sporting contests soon thereafter depending on how long it takes the state to approve their application.
“The intention of these rules is to provide a solid regulatory structure that would enable the four facilities to get running as soon as practicable with the concept that novel or unique concepts and ideas can be revisited at a future date," Ron Ochrym, the Gaming Commission's acting executive director, said at the commission's meeting Monday in Manhattan.
Casinos in line for sports betting
The state's four current private casinos are del Lago in Seneca County; Tioga Downs in the Southern Tier; Rivers Casino in Schenectady; and Resorts World Catskills in Sullivan County.
There are seven Native American casinos in western and central New York.
Under the proposed rules, the private casinos would have to put together a plan for accepting sports wagers, including what type of wagers they want and what sports they would apply to.
It would be up to the Gaming Commission to approve the specific types of bets each casino can accept. Wagering on professional sports and most college sports would be permitted, though not on any collegiate sporting events that take place in New York or feature a New York-based team.
The gross revenue from sports wagers would be taxed at 10 percent, which is laid out in the 2013 law.
The private casinos, which have struggled to meet the lofty revenue estimates that helped them obtain licenses from the state, have been clamoring for sports wagering since the Supreme Court struck down a federal ban last year.
Steve Greenberg, a spokesman for del Lago, said the casino is ready to "offer this gaming option for our customers as soon as regulations are put in place."
"We are happy that the regulations are finally moving forward," Greenberg said. "As soon as they are finalized, del Lago Resort & Casino will be ready to go. Our customers want this form of gaming and we’re excited to be able to offer it to them.”
Three of the four private casinos have partnered with other companies to run their sports books: del Lago (which partnered with DraftKings), Tioga Downs (Betfair US) and Resorts World Catskills (bet365).
The Oneida Indian Nation has partnered with Caesars to open a sports book at Turning Stone Resort Casino in Oneida County.
Some aren't pleased
Other betting interests were less than pleased.
Batavia Downs, the Genesee County race track and video lottery parlor, had been hoping the state's rules would allow it to partner with one of the private casinos to offer sports wagers within its facilities.
But Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who appoints the Gaming Commission, disagreed with its interpretation, with his office saying sports betting can only happen at the private casinos.
Henry Wojtaszek, president and CEO of Batavia Downs and Western Regional Off-Track Betting, said the rules don't go far enough.
"As currently proposed, a (Buffalo) Bills fan would have to go to a Native American casino, or drive 90 minutes to place a bet on the Bills," he said in a statement. "That’s not exactly convenient, and it won’t provide critical tax revenue to local governments."
Online giants like DraftKings and FanDuel, meanwhile, are pushing lawmakers to pass a new law that would allow New Yorkers to bet from their phones, which neighboring New Jersey allows.
Last week, FanDuel rallied its users to write to lawmakers and urge them to pass a mobile-betting law.
"Without your help, New York's sports betting will be limited to the casinos very far away from where many New Yorkers live," the company wrote.
Cuomo's office, however, has signaled it believes the state Constitution's language on gambling prohibits anything but in-person wagers at the casinos and would have to be changed.
That would mean lawmakers would have to pass a constitutional amendment, a lengthy process that would require two separate votes and a public referendum.
The earliest a constitutional amendment could take effect is late 2021.