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Gov. Cuomo backs mobile sports betting in bid to close state’s budget gap

ALBANY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo is backing the legalization of mobile sports betting in New York in a push to close the state’s $15 billion budget gap looming in this year’s state budget — marking an about-face for the Democratic governor who previously opposed the measure.

“We want to do sports betting the way the state runs the lottery where the state gets the revenues,” the third term Democrat told reporters during a virtual press conference from Albany Wednesday. 

“Many states have done sports betting, but they basically allow casinos to run their own gambling operations. That makes a lot of money for casinos, but it makes minimal money for the state and I’m not here to give the casinos a lot of money.”

“I’m here to raise funds for the state, so we have a different model for the state,” he added.

Presently, the state faces a revenue shortfall upwards of $63 billion over the next four years as the coronavirus pandemic wreaked havoc on the state economy, prompting Cuomo to look at revenue raising measures, potential tax hikes and budget cuts to state agencies and other entities.

“The way the governor is proposing it . . .the state could get up to $500 million dollars a year instead of $50 [million] and that money would then go to the state budget,” state Budget Director Robert Mujica explained during the remote briefing. 

Cuomo’s proposal would permit the state Gaming Commission to issue a request for proposals from interested companies, one of which will then be selected and licensed as the state’s sports operator or platform.

Gov. Andrew CuomoDarren McGee- Office of Governor

That company will be required to partner with one of the state’s four upstate-based licensed commercial casinos: Resorts World Catskills in Monticello, Rivers Casino in Schenectady, del Lago Casino in Tyre near Rochester and Tioga Downs near Binghamton.

Right now gamblers have to place bets in person, as in person sports betting opened up in 2019 requiring individuals to be physically present on site at a commercial casino.

Cuomo formerly opposed app-based sports betting, arguing just last year the move would be impossible without a change to the state constitution. 

He has also said in the past that tax revenue prospects would be minimal, despite proponents — like legislative bill sponsors state Sen. Joe Addabbo (D-Queens) and Assemblyman Gary Pretlow (D-Yonkers) — who make the case New York is losing out on thousands of dollars in revenue to other states like neighboring New Jersey every year, as it’s easy for New Yorkers to cross the border to gamble on their phones. 

Legislative leaders Sen. Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-The Bronx) have also voiced their support for app-based sports betting as among several measures to help close the state’s budget deficit.

“We need to create new revenue streams by legalizing mobile sports betting and marijuana,” state  Stewart-Cousins said during her inaugural address Wednesday on the floor of the state Senate, marking the first day of the 2021 legislative session.

Additional details on Cuomo’s proposed legislation are expected to be laid out in the governor’s 2021 State of the State address scheduled for next Monday, Jan. 11.


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