With sports betting offering a huge cash windfall to states that legalize it, much of the Legislature is in a late-session rush to get it done this year.
Possibly too much of a rush, to judge from the 25-page consensus bill offered by Sen. John Bonacic (R-Sullivan County) and Assemblyman Gary Pretlow (D-Mt. Vernon) to give the State Gaming Commission authority to establish sports betting.
For starters, the bill would send the state’s whole windfall to the education budget, where all gaming revenue goes now. Does that really make sense?
Then there’s the “integrity fee.” The bill doesn’t offer the NBA and other sports leagues the 1 percent rakeoff that one lobbyist had suggested, but “only” a .025 percent fee to any sports-governing body that registers with the state.
Sorry: Every pro league already has plenty of incentive to protect its own integrity against would-be fixers. Nor are multimillion-dollar athletes easy to bribe.
Pretlow argues that the leagues could face lawsuits over questionable plays filed by disgruntled bettors. How is that the state’s problem? This looks more like corporate welfare for billion-dollar industries.
The bill also punts the question of online betting to the gaming commission. But that’s huge — turning every handheld device into a potential casino.
Although he has urged a go-slow approach, Gov. Cuomo has kept quiet as legislators deal. Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan is letting pro-legalization Bonacic run the show. And Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie is publicly taking the temperature of his conference.
Legalization fans point out that New York would only be catching up with New Jersey if it moves now, and risks losing out to other states if it doesn’t act this year.
Those are fair arguments — but if the issues we’ve raised, and no doubt others, aren’t fully and publicly threshed out first, it sure looks like a giant gamble.
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