In an about-face brought on by a projected $15 billion revenue shortfall, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is making swift legalization of online sports gambling in the state a centerpiece of his administration.

Andrew Cuomo
Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he will make the legalization of cannabis and online sports gambling centerpieces of his 2021 legislative agenda. (Image: Getty)

Cuomo, formerly an opponent of online sports gambling in New York, hinted that the key to regaining fiscal solvency in the state will be fast-tracking legalization and regulation efforts this year.

‘New York Residents Travel Out of State to Make Online Sports Wagers’

The governor will reportedly lay out the details of his plans during his upcoming State of the State address slated for mid-January.

In a statement released Wednesday, Cuomo hinted at what’s to come.

“At a time when New York faces a historic budget deficit due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the current online sports wagering structure incentivizes a large segment of New York residents to travel out of state to make online sports wagers, or continue to patronize black markets,” he said.

Cuomo emphasized that New York has the potential to be the largest sports gambling market in the US. He added that legalizing the activity will “keep millions of dollars in tax revenue here at home, which will only strengthen our ability to rebuild from the COVID-19 crisis.”

Starting last month, Cuomo said state shortfalls and economic despair brought on by the pandemic have changed his year’s-long opposition to online sports betting.

His sentiment that New York could be the nation’s most significant market in terms of handle is not hyperbole. Next door neighbor New Jersey is on track to make around $5 billion in online sports bets in 2020.

New Jersey Handle Shows New York What’s Possible … Maybe

In November alone, New Jersey took in almost one billion dollars in total handle — more than double than the second-place state of Nevada. As much as 98% of the state’s sports wagers are placed online.

Though four casinos located in upstate New York have sportsbooks, most betting in the 18 states that have opened up for sports gambling is done via an app.

Cuomo’s statement helped spark a small surge in online sportsbook stock on Wednesday, as the market as a whole rallied on the news. MGM, which is currently in negotiations to acquire London-based sportsbook Ladbrokes, was up 2.7%, DraftKings was up 3%, Penn National was up 2.5%, and Flutter Entertainment, which owns FanDuel, was up 2.5%.