NY State Sen. Addabbo Praises NJ Gov. Murphy’s Attitude Toward Online Gaming

“I don’t like to see Jersey take our money, or Pennsylvania, or the illegal bookies," NY state Sen. Addabbo said on the Gamble On podcast.
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The push to legalize mobile sports betting and other forms of online gambling is not quite the most headline-grabbing issue in New York state politics these days. But it remains an important topic to state Sen. Joseph Addabbo Jr., the sponsor of NY Senate Bill S1183, which seeks to regulate mobile sports wagering.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has long been the biggest obstacle to such regulation, but his tune changed in January (which feels like a lifetime ago for the increasingly scandal-plagued New York governor).

There is hope in New York these days for online gaming. Addabbo is optimistic. But he’s also expressing some gubernatorial envy regarding his neighbors across the Hudson.

“We have Gov. Cuomo, and we’re working with him at this point,” Addabbo said on Thursday’s episode of the Gamble On podcast. “It’s not like Gov. [Phil] Murphy in New Jersey. Gov. Murphy really embraces gaming, in terms of not only sports betting, mobile — and they’re doing great — but also online gaming, online poker, and so forth.”

Addabbo used extremely careful phrasing as it pertained to whispers about Cuomo’s future as governor, noting simply, “We have to deal with the administration that we currently have.”

NJ eating NY’s lunch

For the last 2½ years, since mobile sports betting launched in New Jersey, Addabbo has been in the frustrating position of watching his constituents spend money in the Garden State, diverting valuable tax revenue across the state line. He’s a fan of New Jersey’s online gaming laws, but not of what they’ve meant for New York’s gambling business.

“We always look at other states, compare their legislation, and I’m keeping a watch on Jersey’s numbers all the time,” Sen. Addabbo said. “Actually, our bill has certain segments of the Jersey bill, mobile sports betting, included in our bill.

“In January, Jersey does $82 million in gross revenue from sports betting — $82 million. Now, if I wanted to place a sports bet right now, I’ve got to drive two hours north to Resorts World Catskills … or, I can get in my car and go maybe a half-hour to Jersey — half hour, and place a bet there. So when we look at Jersey and we see things like $82 million, we do know that Jersey does about 92 percent mobile. So, of that $82 million, roughly $75 million is mobile. And of that $75 million, we know 25 percent is our New Yorkers. So, of that money, $18 million from New York shifted to New Jersey [on]  mobile sports betting. $18 million leaving our state. That’s a problem for me.”

Will that problem go away in the near future? Nobody knows just how close New York is to passing its own online sports betting legislation, but most would agree the state is closer now than it’s ever been before.

The Empire State is facing an April 1 deadline to finalize its budget. Addabbo said he’s “an optimist” who hates “no” for an answer, so he expects mobile sports betting to be part of that budget.

“In a budget that has a $20 billion deficit due to the pandemic, we can certainly use the revenue, and the educational funds that come along with it,” he said on the podcast. “But, if not in the budget, we can do mobile sports betting as a standalone bill. We did that in 2019, and the Senate passed it on the floor, 57-5 … but it never passed the Assembly, even though there’s enough support for the Assembly version of the bill in that house. So you can do it as a standalone, and of course the governor would have to sign it. But because of its fiscal nature, because of its revenue-generating potential, and of course the educational funds attached to it, it should be in the budget.”

The opposition is gradually coming around

Gov. Cuomo isn’t the only New York official who has exhibited reluctance to legalize online gaming, and Addabbo said it’s been a slow and heavy lift getting some to understand that the activity is already happening illegally among New Yorkers. But the state senator thinks he’s making some headway there.

“Some have gotten it,” he said. “And some who were reluctant to vote for mobile sports betting … have come and said, ‘OK, we need to do this, we’re losing money to Jersey, that’s our money, that’s our educational funds, that’s our revenue — we’re losing it to Jersey or illegally,’ so they want to do it. There are those that philosophically have an issue with gaming, but what we’ll do is we’ll address their issues individually.”

Those issues include preventing minors from wagering and providing support and awareness surrounding problem gambling.

“We included their concerns and addressed them in the bill.

“[Mobile sports betting is]  already happening, it’s happening nationally, it’s all over the place, it’s around us. Let’s do it. We already do a segment of it in New York, let’s do it right by doing mobile sports betting.

“I don’t like to see Jersey take our money, or Pennsylvania, or the illegal bookies, or the offshore online accounts. I want to have New Yorkers have a safe way — a regulated way — of doing mobile sports betting and gaming in our state, so we can protect them and give them a better product.”

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