Problem Gamblers, Cuomo Stand in Way of NY Mobile Sports Betting Legalization

Written by:
Jagajeet Chiba
Published on:

  • Before legalization of sports bettingabout 1 to 5 percent addiction calls were coming into NY hotline

  • That figure jumped to nearly 11 percent following legalization

  • NY Governor argues that a constitutional amendment is required to offer mobile sports betting

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Problem gamblers have stepped forward to discuss their own private Hell brought on by gambling addiction as fears mount that legalization of mobile sports betting in New York could lead to a surge in problem gamblers.

Sports betting is now available at four Upstate casinos, most of which are difficult to reach from major population centers, including New York City.  Gambling on sports in the Empire State is not available via one's mobile devices or online at this time.

Indeed, the number of sports-betting calls the state’s addiction helpline received before sports betting was legalized in 2018 was about 1 to 5 percent, but a year later, that figure jumped to nearly 11 percent, according to an internal document obtained by Staten Island Live.

That paper illustrated one such case:

Gambling consumed the life of reformed gambler Gerald to the point where he had multiple loan sharks chasing after him and would borrow money from one loan shark only to pay the other.

He started buying baseball cards as a kid in the hopes of getting the most valuable cards to sell, and from there, he moved on to betting on football sheets in high school.

“I’ve had weeks where I won $20,000 to $30,000 and I would lose every dollar of it the next week,” said Gerald, whose name the Advance changed at his request to protect his identity. “Even the wins, they were short-lived. It gets to a point where you gamble so much the only reason you want to win is just so you can have more money to keep gambling.”

New York lawmakers believe that sports betting can help to fill the $6 billion budget shortfall facing the state.  Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo has up until now resisted, citing constitutional concerns and the need for voters to decide via an electorial amendment. 

Last year, a bill that would have legalized mobile sports betting passed in the Senate but was not taken up for a vote in the Assembly.

Queens Democrat State Sen. Joseph Addabbo Jr. is trying again.  Last week, his legislation advanced in the Senate’s Finance Committee.

Addabbo told Staten Island Live he is hopeful the governor will include legalizing mobile sports betting in his executive budget later this month.

“Apprehensions for gaming aside, there is a need this year that’s unique that we didn’t have last year, and that’s the need to address the budget deficit and the revenue,” Addabbo said.

“If Jersey’s making on average $30 million a month, just in terms of mobile sports betting, I think because we are New York, we can do it much better than New Jersey,” he continued, adding that many New Yorkers are already making the trip to New Jersey to place online bets.

The bill’s sponsor in the Assembly, Democrat Gary Pretlow, doesn't see Cuomo flinching.

“He’s not interested in doing right now,” Pretlow said. “I want the Legislature to put it on the table, if we put it on the table and recognize that there’s going to be close to a billion dollars in revenue, that will take care of some of the cuts that we’re going to have to have if there’s going to be a $6 billion deficit.

- Jagajeet Chiba, Gambling911.com

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