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Gov. Cuomo’s Latest Statement on New York Online Sports Betting Could Boost Hopes

Gov. Cuomo’s Latest Statement on New York Online Sports Betting Could Boost Hopes article feature image

Scott Heins/Getty Images. Pictured: Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Several new words in New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s latest online sports betting press release could mean the governor is warming to a multi-operator model, much to the relief of the industry at large.

The statement released Thursday on the governor’s website says officials will seek “one or more providers” to take mobile sports bets. A nearly identical statement released a week earlier said “a sports operator or platform.”

The slight tweak from “a sports operator” to “one or more” could drastically alter the trajectory of New York online sports betting.

New York Mobile Sports Betting Background

After years resisting statewide mobile wagering, Cuomo shocked the sports betting world earlier this month when he announced plans for online betting statewide. Hours after his support leaked publicly, he stunned stakeholders again when he said at a press conference he wanted only one operator.

Arguing a single-operator model would generate 10 times the revenue of a competitive market, Cuomo’s plans were dismissed by industry legal analysts and gaming operators. Gaming advocates have pushed for multi-operator models in all states in the two-and-a-half years since the Supreme Court struck down the federal ban, pointing to the success of competitive markets such as New Jersey and Pennsylvania and contrasting them with the struggles of single-operator states such as Oregon and Washington D.C.

Days after Cuomo’s announcement Assemblymember J. Gary Pretlow and Sen. Joseph Addabbo introduced identical multi-operator wagering bills in their respective chambers that would allow up to 14 mobile operators as well as retail kiosks at off-track betting venues and professional sports stadiums. Cuomo’s initial plan made no mention of increased retail options, would only allow one mobile operator and limits bidding for the sole license to the handful of commercial casinos with existing sportsbook partnerships.

The contrasting visions leave no middle ground — either Cuomo will give into the multi-operator model supported by his fellow Democrats in the legislature or he will have to force through a proposal that many of them oppose.

Or, in a worst-case scenario, what would be the largest projected U.S. sports betting market by handle would remain without a legal wagering option.

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New Statement Could Mean Progress

The updated press release indicates Cuomo is at least thinking about a multi-operator option.

Posted on the governor’s website after the fourth of his four-part State of the State address, the announcement basically replicated his initial sports betting proclamation, just now opening the potential for “one or more” providers. This doesn’t identify other key components of his plan, but it’s a step in the right direction in the eyes of the industry.

Stakeholders hoped Cuomo would further elaborate during this week’s addresses, in which he touched on sports betting, marijuana legalization and federal aid as keys to solving the state’s $15 budget shortfall. With most key details still undisclosed, they now await the governor’s budget proposal, expected next week, which could not just answer the operator question but many other critical regulatory, taxation and other decisions.

The budget reveal begins complex financial negotiations in the statehouse that are difficult to navigate in the best of financial situations. Now facing the worse budget crisis in state history, sports betting will have to compete with myriad other major fiscal decisions, all of which are required by state law to be settled by April 1.

Sports betting backers in the legislature have already laid out their road map for legal wagering. Tax rates, licensing fees and regulatory oversight are among the key legislative points that are all up for negotiation, but the operator access structure, assuming mobile wagering is approved, must follow one of only two paths.

Cuomo’s latest statement renewed hopes he may be willing to listen to lawmakers, stakeholders and nearly every other entity with sports betting interests about a multi-operator model. Next week’s budget release will help determine if that optimism can turn into reality.

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