May 14, 2021 Sports Betting, Online

State of Mind


New York Senator Joseph Addabbo, Jr. speaks candidly about his state’s integral role to help carry the torch for online sports betting in the United States.

To me it was long overdue. I have always thought that New York should have been participating in mobile sports betting from when the Supreme Court repealed PASPA. So, while we have a little catching up to do, I am pleased to say that New York has entered the arena of mobile sports betting.

A competitive market

While the success of neighboring states has made it important for New York to go live with a mobile sports betting market, there are, and have been, numerous factors at play for some time. We can see right now that Connecticut is working to come online and that both Pennsylvania and New Jersey have already created successful online gaming markets, but there are other factors beside regional competition.

In-house gains

Within New York, there has been illegal gambling activity taking place and there are people here that may be suffering from gaming addiction who we can’t currently assess and help because their activity is across borders. The Covid-19 pandemic has wreaked economic havoc on New York state; we had roughly a $15bn deficit in the budget. So we have needed revenue. Also, the regulation on mobile sports betting can provide a huge boost to educational funds and job creation.

These have been key driving factors from within the state, in addition to obvious outward competition, that have led to mobile sports betting being initiated in New York.

Sometimes problematic gaming and addiction can be overlooked when discussing gambling expansions. I have been proud to have been working on this issue for more than two years, and talking to those who are very concerned, as I am, about problematic gaming and addiction.

Due to this, we have made sure that there are numerous different safety protocols and measures in place that can help not only those that develop gambling addictions, but help people before that point, and educate them on the potential pitfalls and issues that can arise.

We have around $6m in funding now set aside per year for addiction and pre-addiction programs, and safeguards needed to address any concerns people may have regarding problematic gaming.

Using the European experience

When drafting this bill, and crafting the language of it, we looked not only at our neighbor states, how they have done, and how they’ve treated certain programs, but we also looked overseas to see how European markets have operated mobile sports betting. We incorporated a lot of research about what has happened in these markets, and how the markets themselves have progressed and dealt with developments, into our bill here in New York state.

The centralized model

The model that is going ahead is closer to the one supported by Governor Cuomo in its composition than our one, which was based more on a broad competitive marketplace. However, if the Governor had stuck to his guns and had not been willing to negotiate from his model, and we had stuck to ours and done the same, then quite frankly we wouldn’t be bringing mobile sports betting to New York this year at all.

The fact that we have worked out a hybrid model - where it’s the Governor’s preferred structure, but written in our language - I believe works best for our state, and will provide New Yorkers with a premium mobile sports betting product that they will be proud
to use.

In New York we bring in legislation, implement it, and then evaluate it. I am personally hoping that mobile sports betting is up and running by the opening of the NFL season this fall, and then by January 2022 and the Super Bowl we can assess the event as a benchmark, and evaluate how mobile sports betting is doing in New York as a broader market. From this point, a global sports betting event, we will then be able to evaluate how things are going, how things have progressed and if we need to make changes, then start to make changes in order to create the best possible product for the state and the state’s players.

Consumer demand

Mobile sports betting is a very competitive market throughout the United States, and we in New York are playing a bit of catch up. This means that we have to have a very competitive product because we are asking New Yorkers to stop doing whatever they’re doing with the sports betting and then not only use our product, but stay with us in order to support the long-term sustainability and success of the program. It’s certainly a tough thing to do to tell New Yorkers to get out of their comfort zone and established routine, but we certainly believe that if we have a credible, premier product that they want to use, then the market is going to be very successful. We are New York. We demand a premier product. We only want the best of the best for our players.

As a market, New York, of course, has huge potential. Many see us as one of the sports capitals of the world and certainly with 19 million people and a huge tourist base, we certainly have the potential to eclipse Nevada, and even New Jersey in terms of handle. I do think that knowing that is the potential, we should absolutely be aiming for it. Our target should be that high, and we should move forward with optimism that we can achieve it.

New York in five years

With good accessibility throughout the state, I would like to think that the New York mobile sports betting market will be perceived globally as one of the top products in the world. I hope that we can catch, and keep up with, the pace of technology, since technology in this industry is advancing at a rapid pace. I hope we’re able to keep up with that and keep up volumes since the market and the product will keep evolving, and we have to be ready for that.

We have to be looking ahead to see what the next best thing might be, and then make sure we’re ready that New Yorkers have a great product that they are proud to use going forward into the future.

This is just the beginning

In the budget language, we have made sure that we have set dates to move things along, such as the summer deadline for the RFP process. And we are looking forward to working with the Governor’s administration to make sure that this process keeps progressing, and realize the first mobile sports betting product for New York in good time.

It has been a lot of work, and a lot of team work from a lot of different people. Luckily, I have been blessed with a great team that have worked incredibly hard over the last two years in trying to convince the state and the Governor’s office that this is a path we should go down. I am so eager to get started, I feel a great deal of optimism when looking at the product we’re going to bring to the people of New York, and the potential that it has.

I said it when we signed off on the legislation: when the budget ends, our work begins, and it’s true. Now that we have passed the budget, the work really begins in making sure that we develop a successful, premier sports betting product for the people of New York.