As home to a bevy of historic sports franchises, major media corporations, professional sports league headquarters, and a pool of thousands of new sports bettors, New York’s foray into legal sports gambling has been closely scrutinized.
With the intersection of competing factions, many with deep pockets, it is no wonder that practically every industry development within the state garners bold headlines. Not only will legalized sports betting in New York have a profound effect on how the four major North America professional sports leagues adjust their policies on gambling, the model in the Empire State could serve as an archetype for how a host of others establish legal markets in the years to come.
Decades from now, a fully mature market in New York could rival others such as Nevada and New Jersey as the preferred U.S. destination for legal sports betting. Yet, months after the Supreme Court rendered its historic decision on sports betting, leaders in New York proceeded cautiously on legalizing the activity.
Here is our guide on sports gambling in New York. We’ll take a comprehensive look at sports betting initiatives in the Empire State, both from an online and retail perspective. Sick of driving across the George Washington Bridge to place a three-team parlay on your smartphone? We’ll touch on mobile sports wagering developments throughout the state. Interested in betting on a teaser from your seat at Madison Square Garden? We’ll spend some time discussing in-stadium wagering, as well.
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Is sports betting legal in New York?
Legal sports betting in New York dates back to 2013 when the state passed the upstate New York Gaming Economic Development Act. The measure amended the New York state constitution and authorized four unbuilt casinos to eventually accept sports wagering. At the time, the casinos had been prohibited from opening sports wagering facilities due to a decades-old federal ban on sports betting. The ban, however, was, lifted when the Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA) in May 2018.
In June 2019, the New York State Gaming Commission approved a set of final regulations that pave the way for the debut of legalized sports betting at the aforementioned Upstate casinos. During a closely-watched meeting, the Commission considered a set of regulations that would allow sports wagering at gaming facilities pursuant to Article 13 of the state’s Racing Pari-Mutuel Wagering and Breeding Law. The motion passed without opposition, by a 6-0 vote.
The regulations enable the four casinos and their gaming partners to launch sportsbook operations upon the completion of a license application process set forth by the Commission.
- Del Lago Resort & Casino in Seneca County (DraftKings Inc.)
- Resorts World Catskills in Sullivan County (Bet365)
- Rivers Casino in Schenectady County (Rush Street Interactive and Kambi Group plc)
- Tioga Downs in Tioga County (Betfair US/FanDuel Sportsbook)
Rivers became the first retail casino in state history to accept a legalized sports bet on July 16, 2019, when a 5,000 square ft. sports lounge powered by Rush Street and Kambi opened its doors. A sportsbook at Tioga Downs followed with its debut days later.
Before widespread sports gambling is adopted in the Empire State, some legal issues may need to be ironed out. For months, the administration of Gov. Andrew Cuomo has taken the position that a constitutional amendment is needed to authorize sports gambling at locations beyond the state’s existing Upstate casinos. Pursuing such a path invites a lengthy process.
In New York, state law requires two consecutive sessions of the state legislature to pass a constitutional amendment before it can appear on a ballot referendum the following year. At a minimum, the process takes three years to complete. Other pathways exist.
A fiscal year 2020 budget proposal approved by Senate Democrats included a section that would have allowed the Upstate casinos to offer online sports gambling. The provision was later omitted in the final version of New York’s 2020 fiscal budget. Upon his appointment as the chairman of the Senate Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee, Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D – 15th Queens) expressed optimism that some form of legalized sports betting would be included in the FY 2020 Executive Budget.
Although New York legislators could approve online sports betting through a standalone bill, the route has hit a snag. Assemblyman Gary Pretlow (D – 89th Mount Vernon) sponsored legislation, A 6113, that would allow gaming operators to accept mobile sports wagers provided that the mobile sports platform is reviewed and approved by the gaming commission. A parallel bill, S 17D, authored by Addabbo also included a provision on mobile betting.
While Addabbo’s bill passed in the Senate the by an overwhelming 57-5 margin, legislation in the Assembly encountered heavy resistance. A faction led by Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie opposed the measure, effectively scuttling mobile sports wagering for the time being. Both bills can be reintroduced in the 2021-22 legislative session.
NY sports betting at tribal and non-commercial casinos
In January 2019, Caesars Entertainment inked a partnership with the Oneida Indian Nation that allowed for sports betting to be brought to three Central New York locations. Under the deal, Caesars opened sports betting lounges at Turning Stone Resort & Casino in Verona, as well as Yellow Brick Road Casino in Chittenango and Point Place Casino in Bridgeport.
The deal with Caesars positioned the Oneida nation to be among the first tribal groups in the U.S. to open a legal sportsbook. New York tribal groups had several tools at their disposal to make legal sports betting happen. The National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) views sports gambling as a Class III gaming activity, the same designation it has given to pari-mutuel betting. Furthermore, a three-decades old tribal gaming law, the 1988 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), requires states to allow sports betting for tribal groups if the state authorizes the activity for non-tribal gaming operators.
There are a dozen tribal casinos in New York, the majority located west of the state capital in Albany. In addition to Turning Stone Resort & Casino, Yellow Brick Road Casino, and Point Place Casino, sportsbooks are in operation at Seneca Allegany Resort & Casino, Seneca Niagara Casino, and Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino. The Saint Regis Mohawk Nation opened a sportsbook at a casino located near the Canadian border, the Akwesasne Mohawk Casino Resort.
Tribal and non-commercial NY sports betting venues
- Akwesasne Mohawk Casino Resort
- Point Place Casino
- Seneca Allegany Resort & Casino
- Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino
- Seneca Niagara Casino
- Turning Stone Resort & Casino
- Yellow Brick Road Casino
Sports betting at thoroughbred and harness racing facilities
The New York bill also authorizes wagering on professional and college sports events at facilities hosting thoroughbred and harness racing throughout the state. New York’s wide assortment of tracks with Grade I racing includes: Belmont Park, Aqueduct Racetrack, and Saratoga Race Course on the thoroughbred side.
On the harness side, prominent tracks such as Saratoga Raceway, Tioga Downs, and Empire City Race Track are scattered throughout the state. In addition, the bill authorizes simulcast theaters operated by off-track betting corporations to begin accepting wagers on sports.
Land-based sportsbooks — full list
|Casino or OTB||Partner||Location|
|Akwesasne Mohawk Casino Resort||FOX Bet||Hogansburg|
|Del Lago Resort & Casino||DraftKings||Waterloo|
|Point Place Casino||Caesars||Bridgeport|
|Resorts World Catskills||Bet365||Monticello|
|Rivers Casino||Rush Street and Kambi||Schenectady|
|Seneca Allegany Resort & Casino||Salamanca|
|Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino||Buffalo|
|Seneca Niagara Casino||Niagara Falls|
|Tioga Downs||Betfair US/FanDuel||Nichols|
|Turning Stone Resort & Casino||Caesars||Verona|
|Yellow Brick Road Casino||Caesars||Chittenango|
In January 2019, MGM Resorts International and MGM Growth Properties LLC completed an $850 mm acquisition of Empire City Casino in Yonkers. Since then, Empire City Casino CEO Uri Clinton has met with lawmakers in Albany in hopes of securing a full-scale casino license, LoHud.com reported. Clinton views sports gambling as a key component of the license.
Six years earlier, New York voters passed a constitutional amendment that allowed the state legislature to authorize the licensure of seven new casinos in the Empire State. Following passage of the referendum, New York leaders agreed to delay the award of three downstate licenses to give their upstate counterparts ample time to enter the market. Under state law, the licenses for the downstate casinos cannot be approved until 2023, at the earliest.
A proposed bill, A 3963, would authorize sports wagering on athletic events sponsored by colleges and/or universities statewide. The section contrasts starkly with a provision in New Jersey that prohibits bettors from placing wagers on college sports involving schools located within state lines. As a result, legal sportsbooks in New Jersey were unable to offer wagers on Seton Hall and Fairleigh Dickinson at the 2019 NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament.
Mobile sports betting in New York
As stakeholders debate the merits of legalized sports gambling in the Empire State, few topics have garnered as much controversy as mobile sports betting. Proponents argue that the industry is continually shifting to a mobile environment, one that is embraced by the Millennial generation. They point to figures in New Jersey, where mobile sports betting in some months has eclipsed 80 percent of the state’s handle. On the other hand, detractors claim that estimates of tax revenues generated by mobile betting are overly optimistic.
Cuomo has voiced strong opposition to any measure that would bring mobile sports betting to the state. Speaking to WAMC 90.3 FM in Albany, Cuomo downplayed the impact of mobile wagering in New Jersey as a revenue generator. While Addabbo projects that mobile sports wagering could bring New York $60 million licensing fees and an additional $30 million in annual tax revenue from the four casinos alone, Cuomo likened the proceeds to nothing more than a “rounding error,” in the New York state budget. Addabbo, meanwhile, has argued that a mobile component is so vital to the expansion of sports gambling that he insists sports betting is not viable in New York without mobile sports betting.
Of the four Upstate casinos, Resorts World Catskills is by far the closest to midtown Manhattan — roughly 90 miles north, via the Palisades Parkway. The others are even further from major metropolitan areas such as Boston, Montreal, and Toronto. The lack of proximity to a large city underscores the need for mobile sports betting, proponents say.
As Cuomo remains steadfastly against mobile, some franchises have begun lobbying efforts to push for legalized sports betting inside stadium venues. Pegula Sports and Entertainment, the company that owns the Buffalo Bills (NFL) and Buffalo Sabres (NHL), has spent upwards of $7,000 a month to retain the services of lobbying firm Ostroff Associates, the Buffalo News reported. Madison Square Garden, the home of the New York Knicks (NBA) and New York Rangers (NHL), has also filed an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) to trademark its MSG brand for downloadable mobile applications related to sports wagering. A provision in Addabbo’s bill enabled professional sports venues to offer legalized sports wagering inside the stadium.
Regulations, taxes, and revenue
Addabbo’s bill calls for the imposition of an 8.5 percent tax on a gaming operator’s sports wagering gross revenue. The rate mirrors the 8.5 percent tax assessed by New Jersey on operators for land-based sports betting revenue. NJ operators are also required to pay the state a rate of 13 percent for casino-based online sports wagering revenue, along with 14.25 percent for racetrack-based online sports betting revenue.
The rates are considerably lower in comparison to neighboring Pennsylvania, which imposes a 36 percent tax rate on operators for land-based and online sports betting revenues. A bill authored by Massachusetts Senator Brendan Crighton (D-3rd Essex) calls for a 12.5 percent tax on online sports betting gross revenue, while a bill presented by Gov. Charlie Baker to the state legislature would establish a 10 percent rate on revenues from brick-and-mortar locations.
Of the proceeds set to be allocated to New York, Addabbo’s bill requires the gaming commission to pay 85 percent of the state tax collections from sports betting into the state’s Commercial Gaming Revenue Fund. Moreover, the bill requires the commission to pay 5 percent of the tax into the fund to handle costs associated with sports betting regulation and an additional 5 percent that will be distributed for problem gaming education and treatment initiatives.
Per Gaming Commission regulations, gross gaming revenues from sports wagering pools are taxed at the same rate that is applied to gross gaming revenue from all other sources within section 1351 of the state’s Racing, Pari-Mutuel Wagering and Breeding Law. State regulators are also weighing whether to undertake a comprehensive market study on the New York casino industry that could result in a revamped tax structure for sports wagering revenues.
Ultimately, New York settled on a 10% tax rate for legalized sports betting. As of May 2020, New York state assessed a rate of 10% on a casino’s Gross Gaming Revenues (GGR) from their retail sports betting operations. Approximately 80% of revenues from Table Game and Sports Wagering proceeds are allocated to Education/Property Tax Relief, with another 10% split equally between the host municipality and host county, and 10% split among non-host counties within the region on a per capita basis.
Down the road, a fully mature market in New York has the potential to be among the nation’s largest. A 2017 study from Oxford Economics estimates that a legalized sports gambling marketplace in New York could bring the state approximately $74.9 million in annual tax revenue. The forecast placed New York second in the nation, just ahead of Texas ($63.8 million) and far above Massachusetts ($27.2 million). The study assumed a base tax rate scenario of 10 percent of an operator’s gross gaming revenues in determining the scenario.
The scenario includes sports wagering at land-based casinos along with retail betting, but does not account for mobile wagering. When projections including mobile sports betting are taken into account, New York is estimated to receive annual tax revenue of $123.7 million, according to the study.
Under a provision in Addabbo’s bill, professional sports leagues would receive 0.2 percent of an operator’s total handle on contests involving their sport. Should the proposal become law, New York would be the first state to implement such a royalty. For tier two or in-play wagers, the legislation requires casinos to use official league data in determining the results of the bets. Addabbo’s bill does not have an opt-out clause that would allow operators to stop using official league data beyond a set date.
Impact of COVID-19 pandemic
The devastating effects of the global pandemic triggered a massive state budget deficit that may be insurmountable even by New York standards. In August 2020, Cuomo called on the federal government to provide up to $59 billion in funding to curb budget shortfalls over a period of consecutive fiscal years through 2021-2022. At the same time, Addabbo believes the adoption of mobile betting could bring the state an additional $1 billion in revenue a year.
In neighboring New Jersey, bettors wagered more than $803 million on sports in October 2020, translating to $58.6 million in sports betting revenue for operators statewide. Over the first 10 months of the year, New Jersey sportsbook operators took in $281.6 million outpacing New York by a factor of 45.4x. During the same period, retail sports betting generated $6.2 million for sports betting operators in New York.
Through the first 10 months of 2020, approximately 91% of legal sports wagers in New Jersey were placed through mobile/online platforms.
Potential mobile/online sports betting operators
Although mobile/online sports betting is not yet available in New York, there are a handful of operators positioned to offer these products should the state allow it.
Bet365 has a partnership in place with Resorts World Catskills in Sullivan County. The agreement was put in place in November 2018 to allow Bet365 to offer mobile/online sports betting should NY approve it.
Rivers Casino in Schenectady is already up and running, in partnership with Rush Street Interactive and Kambi. The company’s mobile/online sports betting brand, Bet Rivers, should be launched as soon as the state allows for it to happen. Bet Rivers is already operational in neighboring Pennsylvania.
Through its partnership with the Oneida Indian Nation, Caesars is operating sportsbooks at Turning Stone Resort & Casino, Yellow Brick Road Casino, and Point Place Casino. Caesars has operational mobile/online sports betting products in other states and it is expected Caesars will launch a similar mobile/online platform in NY once allowed.
DraftKings is partnered with del Lago Resort & Casino in Seneca County, via an agreement that was put in place in July 2018. DraftKings is expected to launch a mobile/online sports betting platform in the Empire State once allowed to do so. It is also expected that DraftKings will become a market leader in the space, drawing from the company’s brand power and experience with sports betting in other states.
FanDuel is partnered with Tioga Downs and, like DraftKings, has plans to bring its mobile/online sports betting platform to the state once allowed to do so. NY has the potential to be one of the biggest, if not the biggest, legal sports betting market in the U.S. and FanDuel is expected to be a major player.
The Stars Group’s mobile/online sports betting brand, FOX Bet, has a partnership in place with Akwesasne Mohawk Casino Resort of the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe. The Stars Group is a powerful global gaming brand and FOX Bet has the potential to challenge DraftKings and other top operators in NY once mobile/online betting opens up.[/vc_column_text][penci_text_block block_title_align=”style-title-left”]