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June 4, 2019

Updated N.Y. Sports Betting Legislation Includes Tracks

By Tom Precious I Bloodhorse I June 7, 2019

Bill would permit a participating racetrack to become a partner with a casino.

Racetracks were in, then out, and now they're back in again.

A third version of an online sports betting legalization bill has been introduced at the New York Capitol permitting racetracks to participate as "affiliates" with commercial casinos in a sports betting program.

The bill would permit a participating racetrack to become a partner with a casino, thereby getting a potentially lucrative piece of the revenue from online sports bets made through their platform. Further, it would allow tracks to offer on-site sports betting kiosks, which could—for the most aggressive tracks—lead to creation of sports betting lounges on track properties.

The latest round of changes to a bill permitting online sports wagering in New York were submitted over the past couple of days by Sen. Joseph Addabbo, a Queens Democrat, and Assemblyman Gary Pretlow, a Westchester County Democrat. Both lawmakers chair their house's racing and wagering committees.

Of the tracks, Aqueduct Racetrack would appear to come out among the bigger winners. That's because the bill's definitions of a participating "affiliate" can mean off-track betting corporations or tracks and, specifically, the VLT casino at Aqueduct. But it also allows professional stadiums and arenas to be affiliates, but only if there is not another affiliate—an OTB or track—located in the county where the stadium or arena is located.

In Queens County, that means Citi Field, home of the New York Mets, would not be eligible to participate, but Aqueduct could have exclusive rights to sports betting. (New York City OTB folded some years ago and so would not be eligible to be an affiliate unless lawmakers resurrected it.)

The New York Racing Association would welcome the chance to expand into sports betting. "As we have emphasized throughout this legislative process, NYRA possesses unmatched experience working under comprehensive state regulatory oversight to provide customers with quality wagering services on the sport of horse racing,'' said NYRA spokesman Patrick McKenna. "As a result, we are particularly well suited to quickly expand those offerings to include sports wagering. Allowing NYRA to offer sports betting to its existing customer base will serve to strengthen an industry responsible for 19,000 jobs and more than $3 billion in annual economic impact."

In nearby Bronx County, Yankee Stadium would become, if it wanted to, a sports betting affiliate because there is no racetrack or OTB within the county.

The two Democratic lawmakers came under criticism after they recently amended their bill to exclude tracks and OTBs from being a part of any sports betting system. Addabbo said the issue would be revisited down the road once an online sports betting program was established. The amendments introduced this week came faster than some stakeholders thought possible.

But this is end-of-session time in Albany, and legislative surprises will be popping out here and there on any assorted issues until lawmakers go home for the year on their scheduled departure date of June 19.

But what of the future of the Addabbo and Pretlow bills? On Thursday, Pretlow said the issue has not even been discussed yet in the closed-door Democratic conference in the Assembly, a regular gathering where thorny issues are discussed in private for the Democrats to figure out what bills should live or die.

On Thursday, in an editorial board meeting at the New York Post, Gov. Andrew Cuomo cast doubt on the online sports wagering effort. "I don't think it happens now,'' the Democrat told the newspaper.

Instead, the Cuomo administration June 10 is set to possibly advance the state's first step into sports gambling: authorization for the four upstate commercial casinos to offer in-person wagering—with no online component—at their facilities. That authority was part of a 2013 legislation expanding upstate casino ventures. Activity in New York on that authority lay dormant until the U.S. Supreme Court last year dropped a federal ban on sports gambling.

If a new rule is adopted Monday by the state Gaming Commission, as generally believed it will be, sports gambling will begin at the four casinos—and likely most if not all of the Indian tribal casinos in upstate—in time for the start of the NFL season.

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