New York sports betting seems inevitable. There’s finally broad agreement that it’s constitutional. Interpreting the state constitution used to be a major holdup. However, the argument has moved from state constitutional interpretations to bill details. Different lawyers, industry leaders, and government workers have different opinions about sports betting’s future in New York. And on March 10, some of those people sat on a panel to discuss what sports betting could mean for New York. The four Albany Law School panelists included:
- Bennett Liebman – Government Lawyer in Residence
- Stacey Rowland – Vice President & General Counsel of Rivers Casino & Resort
- Daniel Wallach – Founder of Wallach Legal, LLC
- Shanna Cassidy – Committee Director of the Racing, Gaming, and Wagering Committee
These four speakers brought new insights to New York sports betting–and often conflicting visions.
While there was overlap among each panelist, they each contributed different pieces of the New York sports betting puzzle. Like we said, the main issues concerned the details of a successful sports betting bill. But opinions about what those look like vary. However, there are currently only two sports betting proposals.
And only one of them has details.
Bennet Liebman began the talk with basics about sports betting in New York and the country. After a brief history lesson, he dove into what the sports betting market looks like today. FanDuel captures 56% of the New Jersey market, while DraftKings and BetMGM are the two followers up nationwide. Coincidentally, these are also the three brands that have spread the fastest. Unsurprisingly, 90% of sports wagers have been made online–and that was approximately true before the pandemic too. So, a few big brands dominate the sports betting scene, and most of that market is online.
That brought him to the two proposals introduced in New York. The first was Governor Cuomo’s plan, which is more of a rough outline. It doesn’t include licensing details, so it’s hard to say what the sports betting landscape would look like if it was adopted. Senator Addabbo’s plan, on the other hand, includes all these details, making it the only serious proposal so far. Bennet Liebman considered Senator Addabbo’s bill a “no lobbyist left behind bill,” but that idea got shot down by later panelists.
Stacy Rowland had one clear point to make–do not leave casinos out of online sports betting. If casinos aren’t allowed to offer online sportsbooks, they don’t just miss out on most of the sports betting market. They also lose revenue on the floor. When casino patrons wager at a casino’s retail sportsbook, they also play the games on the floor. But when they bet online, they don’t come to the casino. Stacey Rowland argued that New York’s casinos should be able to offer online sports betting to make up for the resulting shortfall.
She went a step further and discussed how including casinos would affect pandemic recovery efforts. She mentioned the 200 staff members that were still on furlough and alluded to the tragedy they’d faced because of the pandemic. The human impact became clear during her segment, contrasting the other panelists’ presentations.
Daniel Wallach founded a sports betting law firm in February 2019 to capitalize on his expertise in the field. He covered many subjects during his segment, but the ones important to us concerned Senator Addabbo’s bill.
Although Governor Cuomo and Senator Addabbo have both released sports betting proposals, there’s little to say about the Governor’s bill. (Shanna Cassidy explains why.) While Bennet Liebman thought Senator Addabbo’s bill catered to lobbyists, Daniel Wallach thought it was “uniquely aligned” to pass. Senator Addabbo’s bill is what Daniel Wallach called a rarity among state sports betting bills. It unified many disparate interests over two to three years to write a bill with a high chance of passing.
David Wallach was enthusiastic about a bill that he considers well-positioned to make New York a competitive sports betting state. Other states around it either have or will pass sports betting bills. Even Canada has a sports betting bill in the works. If New York wants to avoid losing more sports betting money to surrounding states–and Canada–now’s a good time to pass a sports betting bill that aligns New York’s many disparate stakeholders.
We’ve spoken a lot about Senator Addabbo’s bill. Shanna Cassidy explained why Governor Cuomo’s proposal hasn’t gotten the same attention. Governor Cuomo’s proposal doesn’t offer specific ways to deal with complicated issues. Even worse, Shanna Cassidy was still trying to elicit those details from the Governor’s office by the time she spoke on the panel. She also shot Bennet Liebman’s suggestion that Senator Addabbo’s bill is a lobbyist’s bill down. She also views it as an impressive collaborative effort that balances many stakeholder interests.
However, she also pointed out the challenge of managing tribal interests in the sports betting bill. There seem to be questions left to answer about how tribes will operate sports betting. The hard legal questions revolve around tribal exclusivity. Managing sportsbook revenue earned by tribal sportsbooks or from bets placed in tribal counties raises questions about who reaps the profits. Shanna Cassidy pointed to this issue as the most difficult problem remaining.
The Future Of New York Sports Betting
The panel broadly agreed that Senator Addabbo’s bill has the best chance of passing. It also wrote Governor Cuomo’s proposal off because of the lack of detail. However, the panel wasn’t perfectly harmonized, either. Bennet Liebman cynically (his word, not mine) viewed Senator Addabbo’s bill as a bill that catered too much to lobbyists. Daniel Wallach and Shanna Cassidy spent substantial parts of their segments refuting that claim. Stacey Rowland also advocated for allowing brick-and-mortar casinos to offer online sports betting more fiercely than the rest of the panel.
Although disagreement remains, New York’s disparate voices seem to be converging on a common vision for New York sports betting. Senator Addabbo’s bill remains the most likely to pass unless the Governor’s proposal includes new details that win the legislature over. Regardless of their viewpoint, everyone has their eye on March 31–New York’s budget deadline–to get a clearer picture of sports betting’s immediate future in New York. March looks like it’s going to be a big month for New York sports betting. Watch it carefully.