March 11, 2018 by

New York State Enters Online Sports Betting Movement

A New York Republican State Senator, John Bonacic, has just introduced a bill to legalize online sports betting in New York. There are two big reasons we should be happy that this bill has been introduced.  The first is the obvious: it appears likely that sports betting will be permitted in New York and that it will be permitted both at land based venues and at online venues.  The second is that if the state can regulate online sports betting and realize increased revenue from it, it is not far off that New Yorkers will be allowed to play online casino games as well.

New York has already begun talking about allowing online poker.  With this new bill, it would appear that the long era of Americans not being able to play at the casino online of their choice are numbered.

A Bet for Everyone

The bill would allow a far-ranging set of bets including single-game and parlay bets; in-play bets; pools; and many other types of sports bets.  In discussions on the bill, some bets mentioned in the bill might be removed or some bets not mentioned might be added.  So the exact nature of what will probably become legal sports betting in New York is not known. 

Be Prepared

State Senator Bonacic said in his speech introducing he bill that New York needs to be ahead of the curve on gambling issues.  In the context of sports betting, it means being ready to implement a sports betting system if the Supreme Court decides that sports betting can be legal in any state that wants it.

The Supreme Court is expected to decide soon on a law from 1992 (PASPA) that proposed to protect sports from the dangers of scandal and did so by making sports betting illegal in the United States.  One key element in the case is that the law grandfathered in four states where sports betting was already legal.  Other states want in on the action as well, led by New Jersey.

Sports Betting: The Wave of the Future

Sports betting, online and land based, seems to have stronger support among legislators and the general public than do either online poker or the full range of online casino games.  Some say that there is general uneasiness about gambling but the state has many land based casinos.  Whatever the reason, sports betting seems to have widespread support.

State to Tax Sports Betting

Senator Bonacic said that the bill carries an 8.5% tax on profits from sports betting, money that will ease the financial burden of New York state school districts.  Bonacic also is one of the leaders in the battle to bring online poker to New York.

One reason Senator Bonacic and others are so concerned about getting the sports betting legislation done as soon as possible is that New Jersey is already almost fully prepared to introduce sports betting there and, since so many New Yorkers live very close to New Jersey, that state would take sports betting revenue away from New York until New York, itself, adopts sports betting.

Two Changes to Ease Concerns

Critics of gambling remain powerful in the United States so Senator Bonacic added two provisos to the bill to assuage gambling detractors.  One proviso is simply to exclude high school sports from the list of sports on which betting would be permitted.  The second requires sports betting venues to report “abnormal betting activity or patterns that may indicate a concern with the integrity of a sporting event or events.”

This would require sports betting venues to have on staff people whose job is to monitor betting patterns on sports events.  College basketball had a scandal in the late 1950’s in which players “shaved” points to enable gamblers to win bets based on points scored or point differential.  Baseball had its scandal in 1919 at the major league level as the Chicago White Sox “threw” the World Series.  Baseball also had the Pete Rose scandal in which he was banned for life for betting on his own team.

The key word in the above quote is “integrity”.  While it is obvious that sports are susceptible to scandal, it is also obvious that such scandals are rare.  Any law that allows sports betting would have strict guidelines for avoiding so much as a scintilla of rumor that a sporting event has been tainted.

The absolute integrity of all sporting events is paramount for two reasons.  First, if a sport has a scandal, it would cost that sport many followers.  The National Football League saw in 2017 just how quickly a sport can lose followers as millions of American football fans turned their backs on the professional league because of the loss of integrity, demonstrated by many players disrespecting the American flag and National Anthem.

The second reason is that if a sport loses followers, the state would likely lose revenues.

Sports Betting Already Exists in the US

Americans bet an estimated $150 billion dollars on sports each year.  Some is legal, in Las Vegas and elsewhere, but most is illegal and untaxed.  States are all feeling a financial crunch as there are fewer and fewer tax-paying workers to support financially all the state’s budgetary obligations.  Many states are looking to sports betting to provide a big financial influx of funds to the states’ coffers.

Litigation Possible

One possible area of contention is that the bill seeks to allow sports betting at the four non-Native American casinos and to exclude the casinos located on Indian land.  The four casinos in question are not doing well financially and the bill seeks to give them a boost as well.

The bill was introduced by a Republican.  Just as an aside, it will be interesting to see if support for the bill falls along strict party lines—the Democratic and the Republican Parties are the two major parties in the United States—or whether it will enjoy bi-partisan support.  American politics is odd in that the Democratic Party normally tries to protect people from their base nature and the Republican Party normally comes out in favor of the simple freedom to do what we want.

Early indications are that this legislation will enjoy bi-partisan support.