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Governor Andrew Cuomo continues to tweak his plans for online sports betting in NY, but there is still work to be done.

Danny Small

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s four State of the State addresses came and went this week without much acknowledgment of online sports betting. In his first State of the State, Gov. Cuomo touched on mobile sports betting, but we learned nothing new.

However, a press release following his fourth and final State of the State on Thursday contained one new piece of information that serves as a clue to Gov. Cuomo’s changing stance on online sports betting in NY.

“Under Governor Cuomo’s proposal, the New York State Gaming Commission will issue a request for proposals to select one or more providers to offer mobile sports wagering in New York. This platform must have a partnership with at least one of the existing licensed commercial casinos. The Commission will also require any entity operating mobile wagering apps include safeguards against abuses and addiction.”

Gov. Cuomo continues changing his stance on online sports betting in NY

The key phrase here is “one or more providers.” Gov. Cuomo is changing his stance on online sports betting in NY yet again.

First, he announced that he would make mobile sports betting a policy priority with the intent to run it through the New York State Lottery. The puzzling plan was scrapped almost immediately in favor of a single operator that was under the umbrella of the State Gaming Commission.

Now, Gov. Cuomo is once again tweaking his roadmap for online sports betting. “One or more providers” leads us to believe that the state is open to additional skins (licenses). This is fantastic news for consumers. Opening up the market increases competition and provides more options for bettors.

And perhaps the most encouraging aspect of this development is the fact that Gov. Cuomo continues to be flexible. He will need to work with legislators and stakeholders to create a system that works for everyone.

Ongoing NY online sports betting legislation

Early indications were that the Governor’s office was intent on extracting as much tax revenue as possible. A single-source platform could yield the state massive amounts in tax revenue, but it would come at the expense of jobs and consumer choice.

State lawmakers immediately drafted identical legislation in the two houses of the state legislature that would allow for up to 14 skins statewide.

Assemblymember J. Gary Pretlow introduced this legislation into the Assembly. Meanwhile, Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr., the chair of the Senate Racing, Gaming, and Wagering Committee, submitted an identical bill in the Senate.

It’s unclear how many skins Gov. Cuomo’s plan will include, but he could be willing to compromise based on this recent press release.

What happens to the horse racing industry?

Even with this new tidbit of information, there is still a laundry list of questions that need to be answered. What happens to the horse racing industry with Gov. Cuomo’s plan for online sports betting in NY?

Sen. Addabbo spoke with ESNY last week about the initial State Lottery plan unveiled by Gov. Cuomo. Of course, it’s worth noting that the plans have changed significantly in the last week, but the horse racing industry is still on the outside looking in at mobile sports betting.

“Mobile sports betting in New York if done a certain way provides hope for the horse racing industry, who certainly could use help too,” Sen. Addabbo explained. “And yet, you cut out the racetracks, you cut out NYRA — in my opinion in this Lottery division plan — you cut out stadiums, you cut out the arenas, you’ve been excluding these entities that really could have helped you financially in the state.

“I could not find in the whole spectrum, anyone outside of the Governor’s administration, I could not find anyone who said ‘This is a good plan.'”

Again, the plan has changed since Sen. Addabbo spoke with ESNY, but there are still questions abound.

When there are disgruntled stakeholders, like the horse racing industry, that opens up the door for litigation. Daniel Wallach, a gaming attorney and sports betting legal expert, believes that there could be serious legal challenges ahead for Gov. Cuomo.

“When I think of disgruntled stakeholders, I also think that that’s synonymous with potential plaintiffs,” Wallach explained on the podcast “Conduct Detrimental.”

“That means sports betting would be the exclusive repository or the exclusive offering of the casinos and one online sports betting platform. There would be zero horse racing involvement in sports betting and that group, to me, would stand as the obvious plaintiff to file a lawsuit seeking to challenge the entire New York sports betting regime. That’s the risk.”

Going down a long road of litigation would gum up the works for mobile sports betting in NY. If Gov. Cuomo wants to avoid this, he will have to continue tweaking his blueprint.

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