Jan. 8, 2021 By Michael Dorgan
Gov. Andrew Cuomo plans to legalize online and mobile sports betting as well as the sale of recreational marijuana as he looks to generate revenue in the cash-strapped state.
Online betting would bring an estimated $500 million dollars a year while marijuana would net the state around $300 million, according to state data.
The much-needed revenue is part of the governor’s push to close a $15 billion budget gap, a deficit that stems largely from the pandemic. The governor plans to pitch the proposals in his State of the State address next week.
“New York has the potential to be the largest sports wagering market in the United States,” Cuomo said in a statement Wednesday.
“By legalizing online sports betting we aim to keep millions of dollars in revenue here at home, which will only strengthen our ability to rebuild from the COVID-19 crisis.”
New York’s online sports betting system would mimic the way the state runs the lottery whereby a company would function as the state’s sports betting operator. Cuomo said that this method would maximize the returns for the state.
“Many states have done sports betting, but they basically allow casinos to run their own gambling operations,” Cuomo said Wednesday. “That makes a lot of money for casinos, but it makes minimal money for the state and I’m not here to give the casinos a lot of money.”
The State Gaming Commission would require an operator to provide safeguards against addiction in place.
Mobile and online betting is legal in 14 other states, including New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Cuomo said that nearly 20 percent of New Jersey’s sports wagering revenue comes from New York residents which costs the state millions of dollars in lost tax revenue each year.
Cuomo’s embrace of online sports betting marks a significant U-turn as he previously opposed the measure.
However, his reversal was welcomed by State Sen. Joseph Addabbo who said that the state would reap the economic benefits from the move.
“It will create and help the state rebuild after the COVID-19 pandemic, in addition to increasing educational funding, addressing illegal activity in the state and assisting those with gaming addictions,” Addabbo said.
Cuomo said that the budget crisis has also presented an opportunity to get marijuana legalized and correct longstanding wrongs within communities of color. Cuomo has previously failed in his efforts to get the drug legalized.
“Decades of cannabis prohibition have failed to achieve public health and safety goals and have led to unjust arrests and convictions particularly in communities of color,” he said. The state decriminalized personal-use possession of the drug in 2019.
Under the proposal, adults over the age of 21 would be able to buy marijuana at state-approved dispensaries. A new Office of Cannabis Management would be created to oversee sales of the drug. The new agency would also take over the state’s existing medical and cannabinoid hemp programs.
Cuomo said that some of the revenue raised from sales of the drug would be invested in communities that have been most impacted by cannabis prohibition.