Andrew Winchell, Chief Of Staff at the Office of New York State Senator John J. Bonacic, offers his view of where the state is currently at in its ambitions to get legal sports betting up and running.
When the ball drops in Times Square just over two weeks from now, it will not only usher in a new year but an entirely new playing field for the effort to off legal sports betting in New York State. There will be familiar faces to be sure – Governor Andrew Cuomo was re-elected, and it is widely expected that Assemblyman Gary Pretlow will continue to chair the Racing and Wagering Committee in the lower house.
However, there are noticeable changes in the New York State Senate. Senator John J. Bonacic, the long-time Chairman of the Senate Committee on Racing, Gaming and Wagering, decided to retire and not run for re-election. In addition, the November elections led to a power shift with control of the Senate switching from Republicans to the Democrats. The announcement this week of committee chairmanships by the incoming Senate Majority Leader, Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, provides two key changes that will impact sports betting legislation in New York in 2019.
First, the new Chair of the Senate Committee on Racing, Gaming and Wagering will be Senator Joseph Addabbo of Queens. He has long been the Ranking Minority Member on the committee, so his elevation is no surprise. He is likely to support the effort for passage of legislation to expand the existing law in New York on sports betting. He was a Co-Sponsor of Senator Bonacic’s legislation to expand sports betting in New York (S.7900-C of 2018) and voted in favor of previous legislation to authorize daily fantasy sports (S.8153 of 2016).
The second change is far less positive for the outlook of sports betting legislation. The new Chair of the powerful Senate Finance Committee will be Senator Liz Krueger of Manhattan. Every bill that will have an impact on state finances (positively or negatively) goes through the Senate Finance Committee, including most bills that deal with gaming issues.
She has long been an outspoken opponent of any gambling expansion legislation. Previously, she has voted against daily fantasy sports legislation (S.8153 of 2016), online poker legislation (S5302-D of 2016 and S.3898-A of 2017), and she was one of two votes against Senator Bonacic’s sports betting legislation (S.7900-C) in the Finance Committee in 2018. Nearly every time a bill to expand gaming comes to the floor Senator Krueger not only votes against it but engages in prolonged debate in opposition to the bill.
This provides a significant stumbling block for proponents of expanded sports betting in New York State. As Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, Senator Krueger can prevent a bill from being considered by simply not putting it on the agenda of the committee. This makes it difficult for a stand-alone sports betting bill to successfully receive passage in the New York State Senate.
Not all hope is lost, however. The Governor may put any legislation he desires in the state budget. Should he choose to include sports betting legislation in his budget, it would be difficult to remove as the revenue associated with the legislation would be needed to fund the budget plan. The Governor must present his budget to the legislature on or before February 1, so we should know if New York sports betting will be on the front burner relatively quickly in 2019.