• Gov. Andrew Cuomo is against Internet-based sports betting for a variety of reasons.
  • Cuomo’s primary argument against mobile betting seems to be financial, not moral.

ALBANY, N.Y. – New York Governor Andrew Cuomo opposes online and mobile sports betting for a number of reasons. Offered explanations run the usual gamut of sideways political speak, though Cuomo’s main complaint – reiterated on Monday in a radio appearance with WAMC  – seems to be that the state doesn’t stand to make enough money off the pastime to make it worth its while. He also thinks that sports betting ads are annoying.

“Sports betting…does not make you that much money. New Jersey has legal sports betting, it’s on TV all the time. You can’t turn on the darn TV without seeing it.”

Cuomo then goes on to call the revenue generated from sports betting a “rounding error,” which should be a red flag to any economically-minded resident of the state. Such an attitude over an industry that would generate an estimated $565 million in revenue and nearly $9 billion in real local expenditure seems questionable at best.

Nevertheless, says Cuomo, he is “not a fan…of the new mobile sports betting” that lets you “bet any time from your cell phone.”

As a point of clarification, it should be noted that despite this “new” characterization, widespread legal sports betting has been available via offshore bookmaking services over the Internet for more than two decades. Further, more than two million New Yorkers are estimated to be active members at these websites.

A New Referendum On Mobile Betting?

Gov. Cuomo, despite his own aversions to mobile sports betting, seems open to the notion that the pastime could be legalized. However, he says that it must come in the form of a public referendum.

In 2013, New York residents voted overwhelmingly in support of legalizing sports wagering (57.11% for, 42.89% against), as enumerated in the Upstate New York Gaming Economic Development Act (SB 5883).

In Cuomo’s oft-stated opinion, the state will need to put a similar measure on the ballot for legal New York sports betting, as such constitutes an “expansion” of gambling. Thus, legalization requires alterations to the state constitution, which requires a public vote.

Upstate Vs. Statewide

Speaking of the Upstate New York Gaming Economic Development Act, considerations for the casino venues created by that bill are also in play. In the aforementioned radio interview, Cuomo explains that these venues are a financial priority.

“…[W]e are trying to support our casinos, which, you know, we did primarily upstate as an economic development vehicle. I’ve never been crazy about casinos, but life is options.”

Those options don’t include mobile sports betting, apparently.

“…[T]he casinos, especially the way we did it, they are high-paying jobs, they’re jobs with mobility, [land-based exclusivity] would help fortify the upstate casinos.”

Given that in neighboring New Jersey, some 80% of sports wagering is handled via online and mobile solutions, it seems like a poor argument to suggest that removing this influx of cash from said venues would “help fortify” them.

Legal online sports betting is typically handled by the brick-and-mortar casinos that offer sports betting lounges on-site. Because these casinos get revenue from their online wagering products, sports betting should increase the funds that such casinos can draw from.

The funds, then, could be used for things like better pay, better benefits, and better maintenance, all of which are positive boons to the facilities, the employees, and the regional economies tied to these casinos.

Meanwhile, a lack of online wagering options will have the effect (which is already observable) of driving betting residents into New Jersey to place wagers over the Internet or to make their bets at convenient offshore sportsbooks.

It is unlikely that either of these contingencies would help New York’s casino market prosper like legal online sports wagering would. Here’s hoping common sense prevails in the Empire State.

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