New York Sports Betting Kicks Off with Grand Opening at Rivers Casino

  • Rivers Casino accepted the state's first sports bet on July 16
  • The Tioga Downs sportsbook is set to open this week 
  • The four upstate casinos can offer legal sports betting as per 2013 legislation
  • Mobile sports betting will have to wait until 2020 at the earliest
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New York’s first legal sports bet was placed on July 16 at Rivers Casino.

Launching of sports betting

July 16 saw the first legal sports bet made in New York, which came over a year after the end of the federal ban. The bet was placed at the Rivers Casino in Schenectady, one of four upstate casinos that can legally offer sports betting.

Rivers is the first of the casinos to open a sportsbook on its premises. 

Many politicians and athletes attended the grand opening ceremony. The casino will use the systems and technology that are also in place at the BetRivers Sportsbook in Pennsylvania and the SugarHouse Sportsbook in New Jersey.

Rivers Casino offers self-serve sports betting kiosks and an over-the-counter sportsbook. The over-the-counter facility will be open only during certain hours, but the kiosks are open around the clock. 

Tioga Downs is also aiming to start its sports betting operations on July 19. There is no indication yet as to when the Del Lago Resort and Casino and the Resorts World Catskills Casino will open their sportsbooks. Their facilities have to be inspected by the New York Gaming Commission before they can launch.

A tax of 10% will be levied on sports betting revenue, and betting on college games is not allowed.

Basis for sports betting

The basis for sportsbooks in the four upstate casinos was established by a 2013 law that allowed them to offer sports betting if the federal ban was ever struck down. The law also applies to tribal gambling facilities. 

Since neighboring New Jersey made sports betting legal in June 2018, countless New Yorkers have been crossing state lines to place mobile sports bets in New Jersey. According to the FanDuel sportsbook, about one-quarter of its accounts are for New York residents. The casinos hope that these people will now support their legal offering in the Empire State.

Mobile sports betting is not yet legal, but it looks as if it will be coming to New York in the near future.

This will be a big advantage to the upstate casinos. Rivers Casino is a three-hour car journey from New York City. If people can place sports bets from anywhere in the state, revenues will be a lot higher.

New York mobile sports betting

Mobile sports betting has been a massive success for New Jersey. More than 80% of sports bets in that state come through mobile sportsbooks. However, the idea that New York should also legalize mobile sports betting has suffered numerous failures so far.

The main problem is a disagreement between New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and the chair of the Senate Racing, Gaming, and Wagering Committee, Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. 

The governor says he is concerned about the constitutionality of New York mobile sports betting. Addabbo worked alongside Assemblyman Gary Pretlow to pass a bill that would allow the upstate casinos to offer statewide mobile sports betting. They presented their reasons as to why this would not be unconstitutional. 

The Senate passed the bill by a 57-5 vote. However, the leadership of the Assembly did not bring it to a vote. It is currently on hold until the next legislative session begins in January 2020. 

Conflict at work

According to Pretlow, the Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said that the reason the bill was not put up for a vote was that the Governor would only veto it. 

Addabbo sees this as a cop-out, and has challenged the legislature to “tell us you’re not going to bring it to the floor because you’re philosophically against it. Don’t tell us you’re not going to put it on the floor because the governor won’t sign it. That’s not our role.”

A constitutional amendment could resolve the issue, but it would take at least three years. An amendment would have to win passage in two consecutive legislative sessions and then go to a public vote.