new york

New York Lawmakers Reopen Debate on Sports Betting

Gamblers across most of Western Europe enjoy relative freedom to bet on sports or casino games of their choosing. But this freedom is far from universal, with the United States arguably the most pressing example of a jurisdiction where gambling laws are tight, both for operators and individual players looking for a punt.

While the US position remains largely closed off to the ideals of liberal gambling enjoyed elsewhere, there are ongoing efforts to push for current restrictions to be eased.

In the latest of these bids, lawmakers in the state of New York look set to consider new proposals which would, if accepted, pave the way for legal sports betting through casinos in the state, as well as several other forms of gambling such as off track betting and racetrack betting.

The proposals hinge on two separate amendments to the state constitution which have recently been given the green light by the electorate. But some lawmakers are determined to go even further, in devising a model for legalised sports betting in New York that doesn’t depend on amendments to the underlying constitution.

Democrat Gary Pretlow was quoted in local press as saying efforts were underway that would circumvent the need for further constitutional amendments, confirming the drive to find a legal workaround at the highest level in New York’s legislature.

The news will be welcomed by gambling industry stakeholders, and in particular amongst those who feel current US laws, at least in some states, are overly restrictive.

The developments come at a time of an increasing media spotlight for gambling legislation in the states, following the developments of a case before the US Supreme Court involving neighbouring New Jersey, which seeks to challenge the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, a statute responsible for much of the restrictions on sports betting in the US.

A win for New Jersey state in the Supreme Court would be seen as further good news to efforts in New York, and would stand to benefit the state’s three newest casinos, del Lago, Tioga Downs and Rivers.

These casinos were created following a referendum in 2013, which paved the way for amendments to the state constitution. At the time, the wording of proposals was broad enough to allow sports betting at a later date, pending a supporting change in laws at the federal level.

With voters having already nodded through the instruments to allow these new casinos at a state level, as well as support amongst lawmakers, it’s now only federal law standing in the way of a warmer embrace for sports betting.

And there’s evidence to suggest lawmakers won’t simply be content to rest at sports betting. Plans are afoot that would tackle racetrack betting, harness track racinos and OTB betting amongst others, although further constitutional amendments would be needed ahead of any development in the law.

Much of the success or failure of efforts in New York will hinge on developments in the New Jersey case, and no doubt local lawmakers and other stakeholders will be keeping a close eye on how the action unfolds in front of the Supreme Court.

But come what may, the intent is there for a more liberal approach to sports betting, with potential support for even more forms of gambling to move from the shadows and into the mainstream.

While the US remains a restricted market, for both players and online operators, it feels increasingly like the momentum is on the side of those who would seek a regulatory system more on par with Western Europe than the model US citizens have been used to in recent years.

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