Legal counsel in New York is investigating whether lawmakers would have to change the state’s constitution in order to allow betting on awards futures. Awards futures bets may require changing the definition of “sports wager” in the state’s legislative language when it comes to New York sports betting.
State Senator Joseph Addabbo told New York Sports Day that he remains cautiously optimistic about the outcome. Sen. Addabbo is the Chairman of the Committee on Racing, Gaming, and Wagering.
“It’s currently being examined,” Sen. Addabbo told NY Sports Day. “We have to look and make sure that we’re not going to open the state up to legal problems.”
Changing the state constitution would mean a three-year process before the betting markets could change — three years in which sports bettors will likely take those bets to neighboring states.
Allowing awards futures would be one way to grow the sports betting market in New York without adding new sportsbooks.
New York Has Excluded Awards Futures from Sports Betting Markets
New York is one of the few markets in the US where legal sports betting does not include betting on awards futures like league MVP or Coach of the Year.
So, for example, New Yorkers couldn’t bet on whether Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge would win AL MVP, or place wagers on New York Giants coach Brian Daboll for Coach of the Year.
Sports bettors in the state have been clamoring for awards futures. Addabbo said he believes adding those markets could add more to NY sports betting tax revenue, which goes to education. Sportsbooks and lawmakers expect that New York bettors are simply placing wagers on awards futures in another state.
“Other states are doing it, neighboring states like New Jersey,” Addabbo said. “New Yorkers are doing something else in another state where we could capture that revenue.”
“I want to add more opportunities to get closer to what they do in (New) Jersey,” Assemblyman Gary Pretlow told New York Sports Day. “There are too many bets you can’t make. I want to include those type of things.”
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Why Are Awards Futures Excluded in New York?
Awards futures are events that are decided by a vote. Currently, New York legislative language may not include voting events in its definition of a sports wager.
…wagering on sporting events or any portion thereof, or on the individual performance statistics of athletes participating in a sporting event, or combination of sporting events, by any system or method of wagering, including, but not limited to, in-person communication and electronic communication through internet websites accessed via a mobile device or computer, and mobile device applications; provided however that sports wagers shall include, but are not limited to, single-game bets, teaser bets, parlays, over-under bets, money line, pools, in-game wagering, in-play bets, proposition bets, and straight bets;
The job of legal counsel is to determine if this definition could be interpreted more broadly to include voted awards.
What if Legal Counsel Gives the Go-Ahead?
A change to the New York constitution would require passage in consecutive legislative sessions and then go to a public vote. The earliest the public would be able to vote on this issue would be November 2024.
But, if legal counsel says the language and intent can include awards futures, the path is much more straightforward. The New York State Gaming Commission could make a decision to include it, or state legislators may need to pass legislation to include it.
We asked Addabbo if he thought either scenario was likely.
“I don’t see why you would turn it away,” Addabbo said. “If you can make more money and people want it, why not do it? For me, it seems like an easy lift, but we’ll see.”
Budget Season Means Potential Changes to Sports Betting
New York’s political budget process has officially kicked off and, with it, the potential for changes to sports betting.
Sportsbooks are pushing for a reduced tax rate in the state, while lawmakers are holding steady with the 51% number. Sen. Addabbo submitted a proposal to amend the state’s definition of a wager and amend licensing requirements for new sportsbooks. The proposal includes allowance for a reduced tax rate based on the number of licensed books.
Addabbo’s concept is to ensure New York maintains or grows its revenue rather than cutting the tax rate without adding growth to the sports betting market.
“Right off the bat, a reduction of the tax rate will create roughly 600 million in a loss to educational funds,” Addabbo said. “We need to make sure it makes sense fiscally. We have the number one mobile sports betting product in the country. It’s a hard argument to make that let’s tinker with it.”
AP Photo/John Minchillo