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New York Considers Further Opening Sports Wagers

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Democrats who control the state Senate in New York want to permit mobile sports wagering companies to offer in-game and season-long “prop” bets, such as wagers on most valuable players in a sports league.

Not permitted in the measure, though, would be any such wagers on horse racing events or seasons. Horse racing is not a part of New York’s lucrative mobile sports betting program because, chiefly, its wagers are based on a pari-mutuel system as opposed to the fixed odds offered in sports betting.

Permitting the specific proposition-type wagers on horse races would require state law “to change or be clarified,” said Sen. Joseph Addabbo, a Queens Democrat who chairs the Senate racing, gaming, and wagering committee and who spearheaded inclusion of the provision expanding sports betting to include prop wagers. 

The prop bet measure was contained in the Senate’s state budget plan—which was released and approved last week—that will now be subject to negotiations between the Senate and the other Democrats who run Albany: the state Assembly, and Gov. Kathy Hochul.

Addabbo has been unable to get traction for a plan to permit horse racing wagers to also be offered on a fixed-odds betting basis. That idea first surfaced in late 2021 in legislation authored by Addabbo in the Senate and by Assemblyman Gary Pretlow, a Westchester County Democrat and chairman of the Assembly racing and wagering committee, in the state Assembly. Approval of that idea would, theoretically, make prop bet wagers also available for horse racing.

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Addabbo in an interview last week said he still hopes horse racing wagers someday could be directly part of the state’s mobile sports betting program. Now, he said, there is a “fractured kind of betting system in New York” between mobile sports betting and horse race wagering. Mobile sports betting in the state is permitted only on a fixed-odds basis.

“I would want a more seamless way of betting on a horse race,” Addabbo said of the current system. (New York has allowed a “shared wallet” system in which bettors can maintain money in an account that can be spent on a mobile sports or horse racing wager, but direct bets on horse racing in a mobile sports account are prohibited.)

Prop bets are considered especially lucrative for sports betting companies. The Senate budget bill would set in statute the ability for any array of in-game or season-long proposition wagers. Addabbo said the plan would broaden the current system for prop-type bet approvals in New York, which currently are allowed by the state Gaming Commission.

A New York State Gaming Commission spokesman said the agency has approved hundreds of prop events, such as the first player to score a goal in an NHL game. But spokesman Brad Maione noted that none of the approvals for prop bets were for wagers based on the outcome of a vote, such as the awarding of a most valuable player award to an athlete for a season’s play—as the Senate budget bill would permit.

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