SBC News Martin Lycka: The Empire State asks ‘How About Sports Betting?’

Martin Lycka: The Empire State asks ‘How About Sports Betting?’

Entain’s Senior Vice President of US Regulatory Affairs & Responsible Gambling Martin Lycka checks his playbook as New York State drives for the mobile betting end zone.

 “How about sports betting?”; could these four simple words uttered by NY State Governor Andrew Cuomo at a December press conference be an auspicious sign of things to come as regards regulation of mobile sports betting in the Empire State? 

Some would argue that regulation intended to further expand the rather limited sports betting offer in the state of New York is overdue and making a play for mobile betting could gain the NY administration more than decent fiscal “yardage”. This is yardage that would appear to be badly needed to support the state’s efforts to close the near-astronomic budget hole left by the persisting COVID-19 pandemic.

Without a shadow of doubt, the NY administration is now digging deep into its playbook in a bid to identify creative plays that can cater for a much smoother 2021.  

2019 saw New York allow sportsbooks in the four upstate casinos, but the play stopped there. It was seen as a direct pass route into the sports betting territory that required no screen plays, let alone any trickery. 

In other words, a solid and safe play designed to dip a toe into the water of a new gambling stream allowed since the 2018 revocation of PASPA; a play that delivered on the result of the 2013 state referendum that allowed for sports betting at NY state casinos contingent on regulatory changes on the federal level.  

Going beyond the limited scope of the initial regulatory attempt was at that time perceived as an extravaganza that would require a Hail Mary of an amendment to the New York state constitution. A constitutional amendment is a rather convoluted and risky play design, with longer odds of successfully passing the mobile betting first down marker and achieving progress.

Times and critically external circumstances have however dramatically changed. A number of US states have entered the Sports Betting League; the old guard that formed the League the year before, or even got grandfathered into it with its existing players, have further expanded their teams. 

The sports betting handle is going through the roof. To say the markets are booming would be a massive understatement. States in New York’s sports betting ‘division’  have made significant strides into the sports betting territory or are in the throes of doing it. These include just-across-the-river New Jersey, the south-of-the-border Pennsylvania and the historical rival of Virginia.

Indeed New Jersey is considered the Mecca of American sports betting and internet gaming these days. Pennsylvania, despite the rather onerous market entry conditions, has made the most (and much more) out of its decision to blaze the sports betting trail. Virginia is gearing up to launch mobile sports betting later this month. These states have recorded one solid drive after another.  

Looking beyond the East Coast division, other states have warmed to the idea of regulating sports betting and are putting the regulatory infrastructure in place. 

The administrations of Louisiana, Maryland and South Dakota have garnered support for sports betting regulation from their voters and will be rewriting their legislative playbooks to that effect throughout this year. 

Despite Patriots’ less than perfect season and several Browns-like fumbles, Massachusetts and Ohio are being widely touted as the next states to join the Sports Betting League. The Western Conference might need to wait a bit longer for the Golden State to supply its ever so fair share of teams to the League; yet, the Californian tribes are expected to persist in their regulatory quest designed to further propel the American sports betting revolution.

There is no doubt that the Sports Betting League commissioners would welcome expansion of the New York betting franchise with open arms. The play could even go beyond mobile sports betting; a scramble out of the mobile betting pocket towards the sideline followed by a pass down the field could see the ball landing in the area of allowing racinos and NYC casinos to offer sports betting. 

It is now up to the NY state administration to pick the play that will tear down the solid defences of expansion opponents and move the sport betting chains closer to the end zone. Will the administration go up the middle and include regulation of mobile sports betting (and perhaps more) in their April budget or will they open for a flea flicker of speeding things up by means of an innovative regulatory play design?

They could conceivably also toss the regulatory ball to the Addabbo-Pretlow running back combination. In any case, despite nothing being set in stone yet, or carved into the playbook, if you will, camping on the existing field position would seem to be the least likely choice of play.  


Martin Lycka is Senior Vice President of US Regulatory Affairs & Responsible Gambling for Entain Group. The views represented here are his own and not necessarily those of his employer. 


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