Why a Swath of Upstate NY May Be Blacked Out From Mobile Sports Betting

As state lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo negotiate a measure in the state budget that would allow for mobile sports betting in New York, Republican Sen. Joe Griffo is pointing to existing agreements for exclusive gaming rights with the Oneida Indian Nation.

The issue could lead to people in 10 counties — Cayuga, Chenango, Cortland, Herkimer, Lewis, Madison, Oneida, Onondaga, Oswego, and Otsego — being cut out of betting on sports through mobile gaming apps unless the state's tribal nations are included in the broader agreement.

The concern stems from the Oneida Indian Nation's exclusivity zone across the region. A mobile sports betting agreement would have to be routed through this zone, or a large swath of New York would be excluded, Griffo said.

“Cutting out major parts of Upstate New York from participating in mobile betting is terrible public policy and would be unfair to these residents," Griffo said. "If tribal nations are not incorporated into the state’s final bill, we would potentially be disenfranchising millions of New Yorkers from participating in mobile sports betting and from the economic benefits it generates.”

The concern was also picked up by the Oneida and Onondaga County executives, Anthony Picente and Ryan McMahon. 

“Excluding large parts of Upstate New York from participating in mobile sports betting is not acceptable. Our region, which consists of two of the 10 largest cities in New York State – Syracuse and Utica –  would not be able to participate in mobile sports betting if the Oneida Indian Nation is not included in the legislation," they said. "Having a statewide policy that cuts out Central New York is unfair and must be fixed. As Albany leaders like to say, ‘we are one state’ – that means we need policies that every New Yorker can benefit from, not polices that cut out our constituents.”

The potential wrinkle comes as state lawmakers continue to discuss the $190 billion spending plan with Cuomo, who has proposed housing mobile sports betting under the Division of Lottery — a move that could potentially cut out the state's four commercial casinos, who already operate sportsbooks.

Gambling could be in store for a major expansion in New York, as lawmakers have also been pressed by casino interests to allow the licensing of a New York City-area casino. All four commercial casinos in New York are licensed for upstate regions.