Published: May 22, 2018

Rules coming soon for sports gambling in New York, regulators say

ALBANY - New York's gambling regulators are working on rules that would allow sports betting even if state lawmakers don't act.

Ron Ochrym, acting executive director of the state Gaming Commission, said Monday that his staff had been crafting regulations to allow wagers on athletic events even prior to a U.S. Supreme Court decision last week invalidating a federal sports-betting ban.

Ochrym's comments came at a meeting of the Gaming Commission's board, which met Monday afternoon in Manhattan for the first time since the decision.

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"Commission staff have long been working on regulations that would effectuate sports gambling under the existing statutory language," Ochrym told commissioners. 

"Staff anticipates being able to provide a draft for your review in the near term."

Limited wagering

The court decision triggered a provision in a 2013 state law that legalized sports betting in New York if a court tossed the federal ban or Congress acted.

But the 2013 law is very limited.

Wagers, for example, would only be allowed to be made in person and only at four private casinos across the state: del Lago in Seneca County, Tioga Downs in Tioga County, Resorts World Catskills in Sullivan County and Rivers in Schenectady.

Native American casinos — including those in western New York operated by the Senecas — will also be allowed to take sports bets, their tribes contend.

Some state lawmakers have pushed to expand the 2013 law and are hoping to pass a new one before the Legislature ends its annual session next month.

Sen. John Bonacic, an Orange County Republicans who heads the Senate's gaming committee, has proposed a bill that would allow mobile wagering and expand in-person betting to Off-Track Betting facilities that partner with one of the casinos.

Under Bonacic's bill, casinos would pay a tax of 8.5 percent of gross revenues from sports wagering. They would also pay up to .25 percent to sports leagues. 

His counterpart in the Assembly, Gary Pretlow of Yonkers, has said he supports a more comprehensive law, too.

Caution urged

But both Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, D-Bronx, have expressed caution, with Cuomo questioning whether there's enough time in the session to take up a broader gambling bill.

Ochrym did not say specifically when the Gaming Commission rules will be ready.

Once the commission formally proposes them, they would be subject to a 45 day public comment period before they can be put into place.

Tioga Downs owner Jeff Gural said he believes the 2013 law needs to be expanded to allow online betting.

Most illegal bettors today bet online and will continue to do so unless that law is changed, he said.

"It's all being done illegally online," Gural said Monday on "The Capitol Pressroom," a public radio program. 

"So if we don't provide the same convenience that people have today, they'll just stay betting illegally online."

Gural is also an owner of the Meadowlands race track in New Jersey, which is working to add sports betting at its facility near the New York line.

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