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VIEWPOINT: Mobile sports betting in N.Y. could open other gaming avenues

By Angi Renna


As the football season rolls on and we look forward to Super Bowl LVI, there is soon to be one new element in New York state that has never existed before, legally. A law that was recently passed with hope to be in effect ahead of the big game, has New York State placing its own wager on mobile sports betting. 

This is an untapped opportunity within the state. Neighboring states, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, have been racking up tremendous growth from online betting. Facing a budget deficit going into the 2021-2022 fiscal year, it apparently dawned on the executive branch as well as the legislature, that the time had come for New York to join the majority of other states that already incorporated mobile sports betting into their revenue plans. New York State estimates new revenue from sports betting to be around $500 million.

Online betting has the potential to create an exciting niche in this market. Surely it will benefit the state and the platform providers, but it also opens the door for other areas of growth and opportunity. Naturally, it begs the question of how we can expand this idea even further. 

The last 18 months have been a challenge for so many businesses and organizations. We have, as a community, learned to do more with less and modify normal operations. There are some, however, that have not had the easiest go of bouncing back. Especially, as we look at our nonprofit and charitable organizations, fundraising efforts have brought challenges. Yet, community services are still needed — and some more than ever. 

Years ago, many charitable organizations, such as nonprofits, churches, and veteran halls, used bingo and pull tabs as a major revenue source. This revenue would then be used to directly impact the community by funding programs that helped and supported those in need. Sadly, with more casino development and the introduction of games, such as Quick Draw, charitable-organization revenue has dwindled significantly. As their revenue suffers, so do the communities they serve. Aged laws on the books prevent many gaming options for charitable organizations that are afforded to casinos. Why not capitalize on this new legislation and filter it down to enhance the revenue streams of charitable gaming? Perhaps not exactly in the same way, but by creating a pathway and lifting antiquated restrictions, charitable gaming could get a boost allowing the use of new technology. I believe it is time to allow charitable organizations to come into the 21st Century with the latest technology for gaming options onsite. It seems only appropriate to review other legislation that might need updating. 

In 2019, the New York Legislature passed legislation to allow for updates to the popular pull-tab games. It was never signed into law. This legislation has been reintroduced in both the Senate and Assembly, allowing for electronic pull-tab vending machines, but in my opinion, that bill does not go far enough. Consumers want to access all aspects of life on their phones or other electronic devices, and pull tabs are no different. Vending machines are good, yet do not create enough excitement for the game or encouragement to stay and visit charitable establishments. Charitable organizations and vendors in this field have been advocating to allow for onsite electronic pull-tab games. The technology exists, is easy to implement, and can produce favorable outcomes, but because it is viewed as direct competition with casino slot machines, this change has been difficult to bring to fruition. There has been pushback from casino lobbyists with deep pockets, while in the end, it is the charitable organizations that suffer and thereby the communities. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Helping to prop up our community organizations with simple, logical ways to allow them to raise money for community-based programming is easy when you take lobbying efforts out of it. It also takes budgetary strains off government. 

A new day is dawning for New York with mobile betting coming online soon. This opens the door to many possibilities that will generate new state revenue, create new jobs, and develop new market share. It is exciting for the state and for sports enthusiasts. I have never been a fan of taking an idea only so far. We have the momentum to bring ideas like mobile betting so much further. Driving this idea into charitable gaming and ultimately into other areas will not only ensure healthy competition but also will provide new economic growth. Economic and legislative restrictions were so last year.        

Angi Renna is president of Sterling Financial Group, LLC, a Central New York financial planning and wealth-management firm. She is the host of a local podcast, called “CNY Matters.” Renna (R) was also a candidate for the NYS Senate seat in the 50th District in November 2020, losing to John Mannion (D) by about 5 percentage points.