With every ad for Caesars Sportsbook that airs between beer and truck commercials during football games, the question looms ever larger: When will New Yorkers be able to bet on games from their phones?
The exact date is unknown, but the hope is that mobile sports betting, which was legalized last spring, will be ready in time for the Super Bowl.
“There’s an effort being made to have this all done so it will be operative by Super Bowl-time,” said state Sen. Daphne Jordan, the ranking member on the Senate Gaming Committee.
The state Gaming Commission is expected to pick who will receive licenses by Dec. 6, and award them at the commission's next meeting.
After that, it will likely be another 90-120 days before the actual launch, according to Becca Giden, director of policy for Eilers and Krejcik Gaming, a research and consulting firm. New York will need to issue ancillary licenses, for example to vendors who provide geolocation services to make sure that revenue from bets placed in New York stays in New York. The mobile betting apps will also need to undergo testing.
“I think our official estimate is that if they do award licenses on Dec. 6, we should see a launch sometime before the end of the first quarter of 2022,” Giden said.
Applications for licenses were due to the Gaming Commission over the summer, and the Commission released a list of applicants in September.
Five platform providers submitted bids: FanDuel Sportsbook, Kambi Group, bet365, FOX Bet and theScore Bet. FanDuel and Kambi Group both submitted applications for multiple operators.
FanDuel submitted a bid with DraftKings Sportsbook, BetMGM, FanDuel Sportsbook and Bally Bet.
Kambi Group submitted one application with Caesars Sportsbook, Resorts World, PointsBet, Rush Street Interactive and WynnBET, and another with Fanatics Sportsbook and Barstool Sportsbook.
New York will award at least two licenses to platform providers and four to operators.
Jordan said she was initially concerned that the limits placed on mobile betting licenses in New York would mean that the state couldn’t offer as many options as other states. But the wide variety of bids submitted with so many different operators has her reconsidering.
“What I have heard in the past is that New Jersey, they offer a lot of different sportsbooks,” she said. “And so the variety and the choosings may be better in New Jersey, but now that I’m looking at how the actual applicants have bid … that may not be so.”
Each application is graded according to a rubric, with technical factors, including market expertise, platform integrity, advertising and promotional plans and efforts to foster diversity in the workforce accounting for most of the points.
Applicants are also awarded points based on their proposed taxation rate, with higher rates garnering more points.
Through August 2021, 86 percent of the U.S. sports betting handle has been online, generating $2.3 billion in revenue nationwide, according to Jessica Feil, vice president of the American Gaming Association. In New Jersey, 91 percent of wagers are placed from mobile; in Pennsylvania, it’s 92 percent.
But the data indicates “that mobile does not take away from retail business, and in a lot of cases actually adds to the retail and the business,” Giden said.
Rivers Casino general manager Rick Richards isn’t worried that mobile sports betting will damage their business model because a casino can provide amenities, like large TVs, food and drink, and crowds, that aren’t available elsewhere.
“I still think that most of the people like to be excited about putting a bet on a game, but they like to watch it with people,” he said.
With the increased opportunities for gambling comes an increase in problem gambling, defined by the National Council on Problem Gambling as “all gambling behavior patterns that compromise, disrupt or damage personal, family or vocational pursuits.”
That’s been recorded in other states where mobile sports betting is legal, according to an email from Michelle Hadden of the New York Council on Problem Gambling. Hadden said the Council is also concerned about increased gambling activity in vulnerable populations and youth.
The state should require the industry to have daily deposit limits and other ways to encourage players to take breaks and set limits, Hadden said.
Operators in other states are making it easier for bettors to track their weekly and monthly losses, Gidden said, along with keeping an eye on patterns in order to flag potential problem gambling. Mobile sports betting also lets people set limits they can’t in retail settings, including deposit limits and screen limits on time spent in the app.
The current proposed rules and regulations require licensees to develop a problem gambling plan, so it remains to be seen how they will approach the issue, according to Hadden.
Another issue is how mobile sportsbooks advertise.
“There should be no distinction between the way tobacco is marketed in New York and the way state-sanctioned gambling is marketed in New York,” said Les Bernal of Stop Predatory Gambling, an anti-gambling non-profit.
Hadden suggested that the state require the industry to allocate a significant portion of the advertising budget to place ads that promote responsible gambling and resources for those who struggle with problem gambling, in addition to regulating the volume and placement of advertising.
“Anyone who watches sports is going to be hit hard by this,” Bernal said. “Allowing online sports betting is, you’re really opening up a Las Vegas casino on every smartphone in the state.”