ew York state legislators could legalize wagering before the end of their session next month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday, despite previously insisting it would take years to clear legal hurdles.
“It’s possible,” Cuomo told WAMC radio. “I think the time is short and the list is long, so I would counsel the legislative leaders to get the priorities done, because these priorities are not easy.”
Current state law only allows in-person sports gambling at four upstate casinos, and Cuomo has previously said that allowing remote betting via a mobile-phone app would require an amendment to the state Constitution.
But state Sen. Joseph Addabbo has argued that mobile gambling could be legalized without an amendment — a years-long process involving a referendum — so long as the computer servers used in the wagering are physically in those casinos. But even under his legislative compromise, bettors would still have to first physically go to the upstate casinos to provide ID and register before being allowed to bet remotely.
The Queens Democrat was left surprised but hopeful by Cuomo’s apparent change of course. “The last conversation I had with the governor’s office was last week, and we were still not on the same page,” said Addabbo, a sponsor of the mobile sports betting bill and chairman of the Senate Gaming and Wagering Committee, as reported by The New York Post.
The legislative session expires at the end of June, but even that small window gives proponents hope for corralling tax dollars that have landed in New Jersey, where New Yorkers are going for their sports-betting fix.
“New York is losing tens of millions of dollars right now — and the money is going to education — [so] everyone should be excited about doing this,” said Gary Pretlow (D-Mount Vernon), the bill’s Assembly sponsor. “It seems to have been a change in attitude, but he [Cuomo] also mentioned a lot of other priorities that the Legislature has to tackle,” Pretlow said. “I think we finally convinced them that those constitutional questions are invalid.”
Pretlow said part of the sponsors’ argument was that mobile betting has long been permitted at New York Racing Association horse tracks, where the servers are located on the premises. “This is non-controversial,” he said, noting that the proposal has bipartisan support. “This is basically a no-brainer.”
A spokesman for Cuomo said after the governor’s radio appearance, however, that his misgivings about legalized mobile sports betting remained in place. “Our position on constitutional concerns has not changed,” Rich Azzopardi said. “But we remain in discussions with the Legislature.”