New York’s Sports Betting Rules: What Is Cuomo’s Role?

It often comes as a surprise to many people that New York State has not yet fully legalized sports betting. Despite New York City being a destination for pleasure-seekers from around the world and its status as the West’s premier urban metropolis, the Empire State as a whole is not yet on board the sports betting train. There is, after all, much more to New York State than just the city that shares its name.

But one person who is intent on changing that is Andrew Cuomo. Cuomo, who is a Democrat, was elected governor of the state in 2011. Since then, he’s put forward his own very specific proposals for enhancing sports betting in the state. These proposals have been controversial, both to people who are pro-sports betting and those who are against it. This article will look into Cuomo’s unique position and assess how likely it is that his plans will pass.

The Background

First, it’s prudent to explore what the background to this question of sports betting is. Until a few years ago, the vast majority of sports betting was illegal in the US. A federal law known as the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act – or PASPA – meant that sports gambling was illegal nearly everywhere, with the exception of some places such as Nevada.

Now, though, that law is gone. The highest court in the land struck it down in 2018, although this didn’t automatically make sports betting legal. Instead, it simply meant that the governors and legislators of individual states are now responsible for making the decision to legalize betting on a state-by-state basis. And in New York, that’s where Andrew Cuomo comes in.

What’s His Position?

Broadly speaking, Governor Cuomo is in favor of the legalization of sports betting. But while some other states in the Union have gone straight down the road of legalizing sports betting by whatever means are the most politically convenient, Cuomo has taken a different approach. He has expressly stated that he does not want to open up new legal avenues for the endless commercial firms that are raking it in across the country.

Instead, he wants to tie the expansion of the sports betting sector to the budget of the state government. Under his proposal, an arm of the state government, known as its lottery commission, would be responsible for handing out authorization permits, but only the private operators who agree to submit a significant portion of their potential revenue to the state treasury will be allowed to function.

Responses From Others

Those in the know on this topic tend to have wildly different opinions, both about the chances of Cuomo’s plan coming to fruition and the efficacy of it, if it does indeed materialize. According to some predictions, it may end up that some $500 million US dollars are sent to the state government’s account, as a result.

But objections to this plan are plentiful and come from all different directions. One article in the New York Post suggests that entrenching a link between the state government’s bank account and the fortunes of sports betting in New York might have the knock-on effect of pushing the state government to get lottery players through the door. This, according to anti-gambling advocates, could have a particularly negative impact on the working classes.

In early 2021, Cuomo raised the prospect of his potential changes at the “State of the State” address. Some with legal knowledge responded by pointing out that the New York State constitution in fact bans sports betting outright, given that certain practices of bookmakers – such as pool-selling – are prohibited by the local constitution. This could well raise the difficult possibility of the state’s government having to go to court, or indeed to the electorate, to either challenge or alter the constitution. Cuomo is a canny political operator, though, and is now attempting to find a way around this – such as his plan, as outlined above, for operators who are willing to revenue-share, to submit their bids.

There is still no way to see the future, of course, and nobody – not even Andrew Cuomo – knows how the next few months and years will play out when it comes to legalizing sports betting in New York State. With the current raging debate expected to persist for a long time to come, it remains unclear what the fate of Cuomo’s plan for sports betting will be.