When New York legalized sports gambling in January 2022, the state’s Native American tribes were noticeably left out of the agreements. However, a new bill, SB 1962, introduced by state Sen. Joe Addabbo, could open the door for New York’s tribes, which have been part of the New York gambling scene for more than 25 years, to make money from legalized sports gambling.
New York has been a major sports betting market since legalization in early 2022, with the state’s bettors spending more than $16 billion during this past calendar year. Sportsbooks cleared roughly $1.36 billion in gross gaming revenue (GGR), and New York State added about $700 million in new taxes. Mohawk, Oneida, and Seneca tribes received none of this money in large part due to the hesitation from former Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Cuomo’s Gambling Hesitancy
Back in July 2021, when New York legislators were trying to devise what legalized sports betting might look like in the state, Gov. Cuomo took a hard stance at the amount of licenses the state would issue. Pro-gambling legislators like Sen. Addabbo and Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow, wanted to involve all parties and issue as many licenses as possible, whereas Gov. Cuomo wanted to restrict licenses to just four. All parties eventually agreed to issue nine licenses and implement a 51 percent tax on GGR.
Sen. Addabbo and Assemblyman Pretlow met with leaders for each of New York’s major tribes in hopes of making the process more inclusive, but the tribes weren’t included in the legislation. The new bill, however, could not only give these tribes access but also keep tax rates steady.
“When Gary and I did the first mobile sports betting bill, we had everybody in the tent: Native Americans, kiosks, racetracks, stadiums, under the belief that access would be one of the key aspects for success,” Addabbo explained. “I just think it’s the right thing to do to be inclusive. This could give them an opportunity to opt in. Yes, their servers would have to be on our land, but that gives us the opportunity of making money off their bets, which is something we don’t normally do.”
SB 1962, if signed into law, will increase New York’s licensed sports betting operators from nine to 14 by January 1, 2024, and 16 by the following year.
Potential National Implications
Should New York’s tribes agree to put their servers on land belonging to the state, New York will also be able to collect taxes on wagers made at Native American casinos. If Addabbo’s bill passes in New York, it could have similar benefits for other states and Native American tribes within those states, specifically as it relates to mobile sports betting.
Sports betting is still restricted to in-person wagers at Native American casinos in Washington state, while Arizona has issued licenses to select tribes to manage online sportsbooks. In July 2022, the Big Valley Band of Pomo Indians and the Middletown Rancheria of Pomo Indians in California were vocal supporters of the online gaming legislation in the California Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Support Act.