The History of Gambling in NY
In 1821, the first official ban on gambling took place, as part of the second constitution for New York State. Under this new ban, all gambling (lotteries) was no longer authorized, except for “lotteries already provided by the state.” A little over forty years later, in 1864, all gambling was banned in the state. In 1894, as part of the fourth constitution for New York State, all lottery tickets, book making, or any other form of gambling were banned.
In 1939, the New York State Constitution legalized pari-mutuel hose race betting, and in 1957, bingo games by certain organizations, if they were supervised by the local government and regulated by the State of New York. In 1966 lottery tickets were legalized to support education within the state, and in 1975, games of chance were legalized for religious and nonprofit organizations. In 1973, the State Legislature established the New York State Racing and Wagering Board.
Class III Indian casinos, which allow gambling against the casino, became legal in New York State in 1993. These casinos featured games such as craps, blackjack, and slot machines. The Oneida Tribe opened the first tribal casino in New York in 1993, followed by the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe in 1999, and then the Seneca Tribe in 2002. Prior to 1999 it was a criminal offense to advertise on television or radio stations any form of gambling in New York State, aside from Indian-run casinos or lotteries. A 1999 Supreme Court decision, however, changed that, and ruled that the advertising of private casinos would be legal in states that allowed them.
New York State currently allows charitable gambling, pari-mutuels, lotteries, Indian casinos, and racetrack/casinos (“racinos”). At the moment, there is no commercial gambling allowed in New York State.
The New York gambling law is similar to many other state gambling laws and is defined “something of value” on a future potential outcome that is beyond their “control or influence,” with the knowledge that they may in turn receive “something of value” if a “certain outcome” occurs. (Section 225.00(2)). New York defines a “contest of chance” as “any contest, game, gaming scheme or gaming device in which the outcome depends in a material degree upon an element of chance, notwithstanding that skill of the contestants may also be a factor therein” (Section 225.00(1)).
Legally, there are no criminal penalties for people who are only involved in illegal gambling activity through playing; the criminal penalties in the State of New York with regards to gambling laws are directed at those who both run and profit from the business of illegal gambling.
Currently, the government of New York has shown very little opposition to gambling expansion, and online poker has become very popular there. The speculation is that if New Jersey and other local states were to sanction online gambling, New York would quickly follow; however, no such bill has been proposed in New York State, and strong support for the regulation of online gambling has yet to emerge publicly.
All major forms of regulated gambling aside from commercial casinos are available in New York State; however, commercial casinos seem poised to enter the discussion very soon. Commercial casinos are the hot topic in New York State at the moment, and Governor Andrew Cuomo would like to bring them there. Objections come from both the Indian tribal casinos and opponents of gambling, thus dragging the debate; however, the longer it continues, the greater the possibility that online gambling will become part of the conversation and fill the void.
At the current time, New York is set to take applications for four new upstate casinos, even though some gambling operations in the region are not as profitable as they once were. In November, voters approved a state constitutional amendment to allow casinos beyond Indian land. These casinos would be amongst five Indian casinos and nine racinos with video terminals. The 4 casinos are expected to bring in over $312 million annually for schools and local governments.