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Press-Republican: Missing the boat on sports gambling

The following editorial appeared in the Press-Republican on Sept. 7:

PLATTSBURGH — Apparently, the New York State Legislature dropped the ball this past session when it came to enabling legalized sports gambling.

That failure is going to cost the state millions in revenue and drive bettors to neighboring states, such as New Jersey, and reward residents there.

The state of New Jersey successfully challenged a 1992 federal law that limited legal betting on sports to Nevada. Nevada had been grandfathered in because it had sports gambling before the law was passed.

New Jersey has been making money on gambling for decades, via the gaming industry in Atlantic City.

Last year, $50 billion is said to have been bet on sports contests, but only $5 billion of it legally in Nevada. The rest was bet illegally, through bookmakers. The states collect no revenue for all of that.

The Supreme Court agreed that the 1992 law was unconstitutional, freeing any state that wanted to to begin allowing sports gambling and collecting the massive amounts of money available from it. Only a few states enacted the mechanisms immediately. New Jersey was one.

The New York Legislature adjourned this year without establishing the means to begin allowing bets.

If it does, the plan is to allow bets at the four casinos New York has sanctioned: Tioga Downs in the Southern Tier, Monticello north of New York City, Lagos in Western New York and 2 Rivers in Schenectady, the closest one to the north country.

More are expected to be added in the future. Meanwhile, there are no provisions in the law to provide for mobile betting, where bets will be accepted long distance. The upstate Indian casinos didn’t want that because bets could be placed in casinos other than local ones.

For years — ages — sports gambling was frowned upon on moral grounds. Yet as moral an institution as the Catholic Church has been raising money via bingo and drawings for decades and perhaps centuries. The state endorses its own form of gambling through various lotteries.

Then-Gov. Mario Cuomo, a gambling opponent, once told the Press-Republican Editorial Board he was against gambling because of the damage it can do to individuals and families that lose control.

But is it the state’s job to regulate every convention that has the possibility of causing individuals harm?

The fact is that, if $50 billion is being wagered annually, too many people are doing it to warrant government control, and too much money is being sacrificed that could be enhancing citizens’ lives and prosperity.

The college and professional football season is upon us, and New Yorkers are missing out on legalized gambling if they want it and missing out on huge chunks of revenue that competing states are collecting.

The legislature must open the gates to begin realizing this vast source of income that could ease the tax burden on its residents.

Objections are antiquated, and enormous opportunities are being missed.

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