By Ken Salazar and Brian K. Mahanna
Since last year’s Supreme Court decision striking down a federal law banning them from authorizing sports gambling, states have raced to permit it. It’s easy to see why.
Sports gambling is widespread – an estimated $150 billion is unlawfully wagered on sports annually – and legalization benefits fans, who no longer would have to wager illegally through bookies, and states, which can create safely regulated systems and generate tax revenue.
The New York State Gaming Commission recently approved regulations allowing four upstate casinos to offer in-casino sports betting. State lawmakers also are considering an important bill that would authorize casinos, including tribal casinos, to offer mobile sports betting. It deserves lawmakers' support.
The bill preserves the integrity of the sports that fans love, prevents problem gambling and embraces new technologies. It also empowers Native American tribes to offer in-casino and mobile sports gaming.
Under federal law, enforced by the Department of the Interior, if a state authorizes casinos to offer certain types of gambling, it must negotiate with tribes to offer the same games at tribal casinos. But federal law only regulates gaming on tribal lands; state law applies if the bettor is located elsewhere, even if the bookmaker is a tribal casino.
The bill adopts this dual regulatory structure, respecting the tribes’ federal right to negotiate over in-casino gambling and permitting tribes with existing casinos to offer mobile sports gambling under state law.
The bill’s scope is limited: it does not expand the number of casinos and permits only sports gambling. Unauthorized forms of gambling – including unauthorized mobile gambling – are prohibited, including criminally. The attorney general and district attorneys thus have broad power to stop unlawful gambling.
In sports-crazed New York, there’s clear demand for sports gambling. Chris Grove, a leading gaming analyst, projects that statewide sports wagering would produce $1 billion in annual revenue for struggling casinos, mostly from mobile betting.
If New York fails to pass the bill, the state would lose out on that tax revenue, inconvenience New Yorkers forced to travel to casinos to legally wager, sustain the illegal market and boost the tax base of New Jersey, which recently authorized mobile sports betting.
With mere days remaining in the legislative session, now is the time to act, for the benefit of tribes, residents and the state alike.
Ken Salazar, former U.S. secretary of the interior, and Brian K. Mahanna, former chief of staff and deputy attorney general of New York, are counsels to FanDuel Inc., a mobile gaming company.