Sports Gambling Trade Show

The OpenBet mobile sports betting app is on display at the Scientific Games booth during the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas in 2018.

At a state Senate hearing on mobile sports betting last week, all kinds of numbers were being tossed around by the witnesses who gave testimony to the Senate Standing Committee on Racing, Gaming and Wagering.

But as state officials consider the wisdom of allowing the rollout of legalized sports betting in New York to include mobile wagering, we urge them to focus on a specific set of numbers that were presented about the situation that has unfolded in two neighboring states.

Both New Jersey and Pennsylvania have legal sports betting. New Jersey's law allows mobile bets; Pennsylvania's does not. Here are the results:

• In New Jersey, 80% of sports bets are placed online, despite that state having 11 casino states spread across a geographic area much smaller than Pennsylvania or New York.

• Pennsylvania's sports wagering, despite millions more residents within its borders, totals 10 percent of the revenue New Jersey generates.

• Of the mobile sports bets in New Jersey, 82 percent are placed within 10 miles of the state's border, and about 50 percent are within 2 miles.

Those numbers present a compelling case for why New York state needs to fold mobile sports betting into its rollout. If it does not, the job-supporting casinos will get a fraction of the potential business. And the state will get a fraction of the tax revenue that could be generated, revenue that could help do considerable good for New York's residents.

At the moment, New York's Gaming Commission has proposed regulations to allow four upstate casinos to accept sports wagers but there is no mobile sports betting authorization in that plan. The public comment period for the rules ends later this month. 

Proposed legislation in the state Legislature would allow those casinos to establish mobile platforms for wagering. They would pay a $12 million licensing fee and a 0.2% royalty fee for sports governing bodies on amounts bet, and the overall sports revenue would be subject to an 8.5% tax, with a 12% tax on mobile bets.

One of the biggest obstacles to mobile sports betting in New York is Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has said that only a multi-year state constitutional amendment process can authorize such transactions. A long list of legal experts disagrees, but the governor's opinion counts since he has the veto pen.

That said, we believe the impetus is on the Legislature to get its mobile sports betting bill passed and sent to the governor. Put the numbers and the legal analysis in front of him and force him to make a decision. They just may find, at a time when the state's finances could use a boost, that he has a change of heart.

And even if he doesn't and he instead vetoes the bill, there's nothing stopping the Legislature from rallying together in a bipartisan fashion to override him and gets legalized sports betting done the right way in New York state.

The Citizen editorial board includes interim publisher Thomas Salvo, executive editor Jeremy Boyer and managing editor Mike Dowd.

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