Slow the Roll on Mobile Sports Betting


By now, we’ve all heard of the amazing Super Bowl LV performance by quarterback Tom Brady who, at age 43, led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a blowout win over the Kansas City Chiefs and collected his record-breaking seventh Super Bowl ring.

It was a game that was bigger than just a popular sports event.

It was an epic battle between an aging star who chose to join a long-struggling team over retirement, and the Chiefs’ talented 25-year-old Patrick Mahomes, who’s seen by many as the next Brady.

Undoubtedly, most New Yorkers who watched the game on their home TVs or computer screens were cheering for one team or the other. What they were not doing was cheering with their wallets by placing bets on the outcome.

Except under very limited circumstances, New York state does not permit betting on sporting events.

That may soon change, however.

Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has long been opposed to expanding access to sports betting, has apparently changed his mind.

In his State of the State address last month, the governor proposed permitting such bets to be placed via mobile phone apps as a means of raising much-needed revenue to help plug the multibillion-dollar budget hole left by the pandemic.

Allowing mobile sports betting is not an outrageous proposal, but we urge that it be approached with caution.

Gambling is, for many people, an enjoyable pastime that often involves a visit to a casino, where live entertainment and fine dining may also be part of the ambience.

Many of us enjoy playing cards with friends, be it a regular game of bridge or poker or something else, and horse racing is exciting to watch whether placing a bet or not.

That said, gambling brings with it a social cost. Its dangers are very well known and should not be minimized.

The risk of addiction is always present, along with financial ruin, broken families and high rates of suicide.

Any move to expand gambling must allow for careful monitoring of negative effects along with funding for measures to help problem gamblers and their families.

New York is moving toward legalizing mobile sports betting as neighboring states, notably New Jersey and Pennsylvania, have already done so and are benefitting from revenues supplied by New Yorkers who cross state borders to place bets on their phones.

(One must be physically present in a state in order to bet there; a New Yorker could not, for instance, use a phone here to place a bet in another state.)

States are beginning to expand their access to mobile sports betting in light of a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that relaxed federal restrictions that had kept it limited.

If New York goes ahead with Cuomo’s proposal, it would be the most populous state to get on board. The governor and other state officials have estimated that the move could eventually deliver $500 million per year to state coffers.

That’s a substantial amount of money, and why it should be carefully monitored. If mobile sports betting becomes widely available, as is likely, it’s here to stay.


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