Gambling Amendment Could Pave The Way For Sports Betting in New York

If New Yorkers pass the constitutional amendment legalizing casinos today, it could also pave the way for sports betting in the state—but only if a federal ban is overturned.

The ballot language only asks voters if they support up to seven casinos, but the accompanying enacting legislation specifically describes how sports betting could go forward, including limiting it to the new casinos.

“New York has essentially said, ‘We know it’s illegal but we’re writing it into our law on a contingent basis, so sports betting can occur at the casinos that we’re setting up,” said Gerald Benjamin, a constitutional expert at SUNY New Paltz.

The language on sports betting, it could be argued, establishes the intent of the Legislature so that if the federal ban is lifted such betting might eventually be allowed in the state without another constitutional amendment, Benjamin said. “If you put sports betting into the statute on a contingent basis, the people who want to have it adopted could simply say, ‘Hey, this was contemplated by the Legislature.’ ”

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has challenged a federal prohibition covering most of the country, but experts question whether the challenge will be successful given well-funded opposition from professional and college sports leagues.