Could sports betting fund clean water investments?

State Sen. Todd Kaminsky
State Sen. Todd Kaminsky
Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of the Governor
State Sen. Todd Kaminsky at an event with Gov. Andrew Cuomo in February 2018.

Could sports betting fund clean water investments?

Kaminsky: Critical infrastructure projects need a creative solution.
May 18, 2018

If betting on sports comes to New York, it could bring in an influx of new state tax revenue – and at least one state lawmaker would want it to be used on the environment.

State Sen. Todd Kaminsky floated the idea of funding clean water infrastructure by using state money gained from sports betting, which is not yet legal in New York but could be thanks to a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down a 1992 New Jersey law that banned sports betting, opening up the prospect of state-legalized wagering on athletics.

“When we talk about the needs for our water infrastructure, our state has a huge need for revenue and I think our state has to be creative about how we are going to be getting these things,” Kaminsky said on a panel about water and food security at City & State’s Sustainability event on Thursday.

Kaminsky noted the high cost of projects like new sewers in Suffolk County, emerging contaminant treatment programs in Nassau County, and funding for cleanup projects in Hoosick Falls and elsewhere.

“This is all costing a ton of money,” Kaminsky said. “Sports betting came up this week as a way of certainly bringing a lot of revenue to the states. It’s something we should be looking at.”

Julie Tighe, assistant commissioner at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, backed him up.

“Why not?” Tighe said. “We treat this as a very cheap commodity when it is so important. And people should realize that we are not paying for that. And sometimes pay for that on the back end, because sometimes jurisdictions don’t charge enough and so they don’t have enough to keep the pipes working properly.”

It’s unclear how much money could be raised from such a proposal, or even when sports betting could become a reality in New York.

In December, state Sen. John Bonacic, chairman of the Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee, and Assemblyman Gary Pretlow, chairman of the Racing and Wagering Committee, told City & State that sports betting is all but certain to come to New York state.

“It’s already in the (state) constitution, and enabling legislation has already been written, and everything is set up,” Pretlow said. “We’re ready to go.”

Money from people’s gambling habits could provide a public benefit, and Kaminsky stressed the need to think outside the box.

“The infrastructure challenges are real. You can certainly see that with transportation. You certainly see that with water,” he said. “And so the need for the state to help because these costs are just overwhelming municipalities are evident. That was the impetus behind the water infrastructure act and there’s a lot more that needs to be done.”

Frank Runyeon
Frank G. Runyeon
is a freelance investigative reporter in New York City.