Sports Betting Goes Live in New York

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( — July 24, 2019) — A new era began for sports fans in New York, USA this past Tuesday, as sports betting war formally legalized and offered within the state for the first time. The move follows years of pressure by casino groups and players, who wanted the same freedom to place wagers upon the performance of their favorites teams as is enjoyed in many other parts of the United States. 

The law on sports betting in the US has been confusing for many years, with the practice being completely prohibited at one point, but a recent relaxation in the law has now meant that any state wishing to offer sports betting to its residents is now permitted to do so. New York has become the tenth state to fully legalize the activity, although there is legislation pending in several other states which hope to follow suit in the near future.

New York Slow Off The Mark

Although New York likes to see itself as a world leader in many facets of entertainment, it’s been slow to react to the change in the law on this occasion. Its neighbor New Jersey has allowed sports betting for over a year, and is already reaping the rewards when it comes to additional revenue for the area. For the first six months of 2019, gamblers have spent in excess of $300 per month backing various teams and individuals, all of which is excellent news for the city’s fund bank. 

Even with the availability of sports betting and registered locations within the state, though, New York still lags behind New Jersey in terms of implementation. New York’s legislature does not allow for mobile sports betting, whereas the laws of New Jersey do. This has resulted in a farcical situation whereby residents are not permitted to use their phones to place bets within the confines of New York State, but make a brief journey up the Hudson River, sit inside their cars and place bets without committing an offense. 

The issue is seen as symptomatic of the problems that online and mobile gambling has brought. Existing national and state laws around gambling were drawn up during a time before the internet, and so mainly aren’t suited to covering gambling activities which happen online. As a result, gamblers including mobile slot games in the UK players are allowed to indulge their hobby in one place, but not the other. As the entire purpose of mobile slots is that you can play them on the move, in any location, this could potentially create a situation where individuals find themselves in contravention of the law by accident. Someone starting a train journey in one state, and playing mobile slots to pass the time on their trip, could either pass through or arrive in another state which doesn’t permit the activity. If they’re still playing mobile slots when they arrive at their destination, they could have broken the law without consciously realizing it. 

Long Journeys

On the topic of people making journeys, anyone wishing to place a sports bet in New York may be facing a long one in order to do so. At this early stage, there aren’t many casinos or betting shops that gamblers can visit to place their bets. The huge Rivers Casino & Resort in Schenectady has a specific facility for customers who want to place sports bets, but the casino is a full one hundred and seventy miles away from New York City. It was hoped that players might be allowed to log on to the casino’s website to place bets, but it now appears that this will not be permitted. 

The reluctance to allow for mobile betting has caused a political disagreement. Senator Joe Addabbo believes that there is provision within the state’s existing constitution for mobile betting to be permitted, whereas Governor Andrew Cuomo believes that no such permission can be granted without making amendments to the state’s constitution. Changing the constitution is politically difficult, and would not be achieved quickly even if a change could be agreed upon. 

Despite his resistance, Cuomo had publicly admitted that he’s agreed to allow at least some sports betting activity to take place because of the scale of the revenue being lost to neighboring areas, which he’d like to see come back into New York. He describes himself as ‘not being a fan’ of the gaming industry, but points to the fact that ‘all the states around New York’ are doing it as justification for his decision. Senator Addabbo will now be hoping that he’ll be able to point at similar revenue figures in relation to mobile betting, and lead the Governor to the same conclusion. In the most recent figures for New Jersey available, internet betting had increased 59% during the first six months of 2019 compared to the last six months of 2019, and is projected to continue rising in the future. 

Aside from the Rivers Casino, the Tioga downs and Del Lago casinos have made provisions to allow customers to place bets on sports, with tribal casinos also getting in on the action. More casinos may follow if existing locations decide to submit formal applications to the Governor’s office. The full list of sports currently available to place wagers on include basketball, football, hockey, baseball, soccer, boxing, and all college sports. In-game betting is available as well as straight-up bets on outcomes. 

One thing that may go in favor of those who’d like to see a further relaxation of existing gambling laws is the fact that New York State is the most densely populated of all states which currently allow sports betting. It therefore follows that if people take the hobby up with the same enthusiasm as has been seen in other states, revenues in New York will be significantly higher than those seen in smaller states. One the treasury gets a taste of that money, they may decide that they want more. At that point, there may be a greater desire to amend the state constitution than we’re seeing at the time of writing. We can’t predict the future – but at least the residents of New York State now have a little more freedom should they decide to place a bet on it.