BRONX, NEW YORK - MARCH 26: A father and son walk past a closed Yankee Stadium on the scheduled date for Opening Day March 26, 2020 in the Bronx, New York. Major League Baseball has postponed the start of its season due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and MLB commissioner Rob Manfred recently said the league is
(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Although sports betting is legal in New York, online sports betting is not. Now might be the perfect time to change that.

Like most of the country, New York State is enduring unprecedented hardship in 2020. The coronavirus pandemic has the state on pause for the time being and thus, New Yorkers are without their favorite sports teams.

With the vast majority of sports shut down due to COVID-19, sports bettors are left with little to wager on. UFC events are taking place, charity golf matches are coming, and NASCAR is right around the corner, but for the most part, there isn’t much going on in the sports world.

This lull in the action is the perfect opportunity for New York to move forward with something that New York State Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. says is inevitable: online sports betting. In fact, sports betting is legal in New York, but NY online sports betting is not.

That paradoxical fact combined with the growing number of states passing online sports betting legislation means that New York is bound to pass this measure eventually. Sen. Addabbo feels that this is an opportune time to pass legislation by the end of the year.

“Every day, I am mindful of the negative impact the Coronavirus has inflicted upon our state. This is an unprecedented time we are facing right now, but it also presents us with an unprecedented opportunity,” Sen. Addabbo said in a statement on May 1. “In terms of sporting events, which are shutdown because of the global health crisis, we can utilize this time to institute a ‘Plan, Pass, and Prepare’ mobile sports betting legislative strategy.”

Sen. Addabbo’s “Plan, Pass, and Prepare” strategy could create a positive out of a negative. Obviously, the health and safety of New Yorkers are the top priorities right now, but the economic toll shouldn’t be overlooked. The revenue brought in by online sports betting could be a massive boon for the state as it rebounds from the current crisis.

With the uncertainty at the state and federal level going forward, New York is going to need to find creative ways to fill its coffers. Online sports betting is one obvious area that the state could take advantage of and there is no better time than the present to get it done.

As of now, the state is leaving tons of revenue on the table. Without online sports betting, some New Yorkers opt to use illegal offshore sportsbooks.

“The fact is we have an illegal activity here in New York,” Sen. Addabbo told ESNY. “It’s basically a billion-dollar industry that we don’t see on our tax returns and the state does not see revenue from the illegal sports betting activity that goes on here in our state.”

It’s difficult to account for an exact dollar amount that New York loses out on to illegal offshore sportsbooks. However, the figures for New York’s losses to New Jersey, a state with legalized online sports betting, are quite clear.

“And of course, we look at other states. Pennsylvania is one of them, but most predominantly is New Jersey,” Sen. Addabbo explained. “And we saw the study that came out earlier in the year that said $837 million of New York money goes to New Jersey last year.”

Sen. Addabbo is referencing a report from Eilers & Krejcik Gaming. That figure accounts for the money that New Yorkers bet in New Jersey in 2019. Although that number is likely to be down in 2020 due to the absence of live sports, New Jersey will continue to reap the benefits of New York bettors once again.

“How do we keep that money here? How do we recoup some of the illegal money? Give our people in New York a safe, responsible, easily accessible way of doing it here. That’s the gameplan.”

That’s where the story comes full circle. Sen. Addabbo’s “Plan, Pass, and Prepare” strategy aims to have an online sports betting bill on Governor Andrew Cuomo’s desk by Dec. 31, 2020. If the bill is signed into law, the state can begin preparing for full-scale implementation of online sports betting.

There are more important things going on in the world than sports right now. There’s no disputing that fact. But make no mistake about it, online sports betting is coming to New York sooner rather than later. Why not move forward with it now when it can help the state recover from unprecedented hardship?

The timing makes complete sense for a state that is going to need an economic boost.

NY/NJ hoops reporter (NBA/NCAA) & sports betting writer for XL Media. Never had the makings of a varsity athlete.