NJ Sports Betting Bonanza Still Sore Subject For NY Lawmaker

A lawmaker remains disappointed that New Jersey beat New York to the sports betting punch
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New York State Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr.’s long-scheduled appearance on Monday as a panelist at the National Council of Legislative Gaming States (NCLGS) conference in Chicago came at a fortuitous time: just a few days after his state’s gaming commission released key rules for potential mobile sports betting partners to follow.

But as optimistic as Addabbo remains about the idea of New Yorkers being able to make legal bets on their smartphones for the next Super Bowl in February, he also remains frustrated over the delay — since other states were up and running with mobile sports betting within weeks of the U.S. Supreme Court’s May 2018 ruling that allowed any state to offer such betting.

“Back in 2018, we should have been able to do it,” Addabbo told the  NCLGS audience. “The idea of playing catch-up is foreign to New York, but we have a lot of catching up to do.”

Neighboring state Connecticut seems to be on its way to adding mobile sports betting next year as well, and Pennsylvania already has it. But it is the Garden State’s success since a mid-2018 launch of such gambling that gets to Addabbo the most.

“Whenever I look at New Jersey’s numbers, I get agita,” Addabbo said, adding, “For those of you who aren’t Italian, that means ‘upset.'”

The joke came only minutes after a fellow lawmaker from the Midwest twice mispronounced Addabbo’s name as he introduced the senator.

Money over the bridge (and through the tunnel)

Addabbo recalled heading from his Queens residence in 2019 to a sports betting seminar in Manhattan, where, he said, “I realized I didn’t really have an opening [anecdote].”

Then Addabbo noticed a sign as he got out of his car in midtown Manhattan that read, “Lincoln Tunnel/New Jersey.”

“I said, ‘There’s my opening,'” Addabbo noted. “If you are in New York City and you want to place a [legal] sports bet, we have sports betting. You can drive 2-1/2 hours north to the Catskills casino — or you could get in your car, or on a train, or on a bicycle, and go right over to New Jersey and bet.

“The crowd had their mouths open,” the lawmaker said. “Well, that’s how I felt.”

Various studies have produced estimates that up to 20 or 25% of each month’s New Jersey handle, or amount wagered, comes from New Yorkers. Sportsbooks in New Jersey took in nearly $400 million in gross revenue in 2020, meaning that New York missed out on millions in tax revenues.

That should change, of course, beginning sometime in 2022.

Better a little late than a lot of never

After the panel discussion, Addabbo told NJ Online Gambling that he was “disappointed” the commission missed a required July 1 deadline to send out “Requests For Applications” from prospective online sports betting operators in his state.

“But July 9, that’s not too bad — and with a little initiative from the commission, and I have confidence there will be, we can still hit the benchmarks we need to hit,” Addabbo added.

The commission will select a minimum of two platform and four mobile sports betting operators later this year. The next deadline is Aug. 2, when preliminary responses from interested parties are due.

The language in the 130-page document seems to mirror Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s desire for a minimum tax rate on sports betting at a whopping 50%, as New Hampshire has done.

“I’m just thankful for a governor who was reluctant to do [mobile] sports betting in 2019 and 2020, but he did it in 2021,” Addabbo said. “Now we just need to have a premier product so we are able to compete.”

As for the high tax rate, Addabbo said, “I think there’s a lot of players out there that want to do business with New York. People understand the market, and the potential.”

Addabbo also is pleased that the commission left an opening for the possibility of more than just a couple of sports betting partners with the state.

“More skins benefits the consumer,” Addabbo said.

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