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August 20, 2019

Constitutional concerns prevailed at the legislative session adjournment

New York won't have mobile sports betting legislation this year

New York won't have mobile sports betting legislation this year
The legislative session was extended by one day to finalize a number of state appointments, but the mobile wagering bill failed to progress beyond the stage of the Assembly Standing Committee on Codes.
United States | 06/21/2019

The session was extended for one more day to include Thursday, but the legalization of web and app-based sportsbooks operating inside state lines was not among the bills discussed. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie agreed with Gov. Andrew Cuomo's interpretation that the current wording of the state constitution did not allow for online and mobile sports betting. bill sponsor Sen. Joe Addabbo said he would begin to craft a constitutional amendment to introduce next year.

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he New York online and mobile sports betting bill S17D failed to pass in the state Assembly on Wednesday, the final day of the 2019 legislative session, after lawmakers were unable to agree on whether the legislation would violate the state constitution.

The session was extended for at least one more day to include Thursday and finalize a number of state appointments, but the legalization of web and app-based sportsbooks operating inside state lines was not among the bills discussed.

After easily passing 57-5 on the Senate floor and 16-3 in the Rules Committee on Monday, the legislation was swiftly referred to the Assembly Standing Committee on Codes, and there was hope among the bill’s supporters in the upper chamber that it would pass before the session came to an end, which finally didn't happen.

“We’re giving them a framework that includes everybody, we’re not recreating the wheel,” said bill sponsor Sen. Joe Addabbo on Monday. “I’m the eternal optimist. I still have two days.” However, the bill stalled in the lower chamber after questions were raised by lawmakers on whether they needed to amend the state constitution before legalizing mobile gambling on sports, a process that would take several years.

As a preemptive step should the federal ban on sports betting be lifted in the future, New York enacted a law in 2013 to authorized four upstate casinos — del Lago Resort & Casino, Rivers Casino & Resort Schenectady, Resorts World Catskills, and Tioga Downs Casino Resort — and casinos operated by the Seneca Nation of Indians and other tribes to offer in-person sportsbooks. The New York Gaming Commission approved rules and regulations last week for licensing, opening and operating these sports betting facilities across Upstate New York. Most estimates say the New York sportsbooks should be operating by August.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo stated throughout 2019 he believes the current wording of the state constitution did not allow for online and mobile sports betting and said lawmakers would need to pass an amendment to prevent any potential legal challenges to the law in the future.

The odds of passage dimmed after it was reported earlier this week that Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie agreed with the governor’s interpretation and planned to not call for a vote on the legislation, killing any chance New York would offer online and mobile sportsbooks this year.

“I am disappointed. It was within our grasp,’’ Addabbo told the Buffalo News, adding that this was a missed opportunity to bring jobs and tax revenue generated from mobile sportsbooks to New York, which New Jersey has enjoyed for the past year.

While New York will launch sportsbooks at land-based commercial and tribal casinos later this year, the tax revenue generated by the state will likely be lackluster since the mobile wagering is clearly the preferred option by the public.

As for what comes next, Addabbo said he would begin to craft a constitutional amendment to introduce next year that would legalize sports betting on personal electronic devices and perhaps go even further since the governor won’t be involved.

“Unfortunately for the governor, he’s not part of the constitutional process,” he said. “Now I get to draw up anything I like, in cooperation with the Assembly, so we can draw a much different, much broader bill.” For now, the legalization of online and mobile sports betting in New York will have to wait until the 2020 legislative session.

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