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New Yorkers’ Long Wait for Sports Betting by Phone Is Nearly Over

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ALBANY, N.Y. — After years of delays as a booming market emerged in neighboring states, New York formally announced the winners of two licenses for mobile sports betting on Monday, though residents may still have to wait months to gamble from their cellphones.

The two licenses, to be issued by the state Gaming Commission, bypassed one marquee name in its decision — Jay-Z, who had teamed with two companies to bid for a license — in favor of a pair of broad coalitions including some of the biggest names in gaming.

Caesars Sportsbook and Wynn Interactive teamed with Resorts World — owned by Genting, one of the world’s largest gambling companies — as well as another American company, Rush Street, a Chicago-based group that operates a casino in Schenectady.

The second winning group was backed by fantasy sports giants FanDuel and DraftKings and also included online operations of two other Las Vegas veterans: BetMGM and Bally’s Interactive.

The gaming commission’s decision does not mean that New York bettors can immediately wager at home: The state still must approve technical details and testing for the gaming platforms, though many industry observers anticipate that systems will be in place by the Super Bowl on Feb. 13, the biggest betting event of the year.

New Jersey residents have been able to place bets on sporting events from a mobile phone or a laptop since 2018. Mobile sports betting is also legal in Pennsylvania, as are online casino games like blackjack and roulette; Connecticut began offering online betting this fall.

Albany lawmakers approved the expansion into mobile sports betting as part of this year’s state budget process, after years of false starts. In 2019, lawmakers struck a deal allowing sports betting on the premises of four upstate casinos, but fell short of matching New Jersey’s rules, frustrating supporters of expanding gaming.

Still, on Monday, some lawmakers who backed the legislation were upset that the selected companies seemed not to be as diverse or as numerous as they had hoped.

“I’m truly disappointed that the Gaming Commission is making a serious error in not being inclusive, and just going back to the good old boy systems,” said Assemblyman Gary Pretlow, the Westchester County Democrat who heads his chamber’sCommittee on Racing and Wagering. “We’re just playing around with the same people.”

On Monday, commissioners said the evaluation process did take into account whether the bidders would foster “racial, ethnic and gender diversity” in their work forces, though more weight was given to factors like expertise and experience.

The two winning consortiums are expected to offer up to nine online betting sites. By contrast, New Jersey has nearly a dozen licensed operators, including casinos and racetracks, partnered with nearly two dozen online sites to take bets.

State Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr., a Democrat from Queens who serves as chairman of the racing, gaming and wagering committee, said that he hoped New York gamblers would “switch and stay” once the betting sites are up and running.

“We’ve got to be competitive,” he said. “We’re asking New Yorkers to come to us, and stay with us.”

The presence of online gaming in nearby New Jersey has led some New York residents to travel there to bet, with some even crossing to the New Jersey side of the George Washington Bridge — which connects the two states — to gamble.

Mobile sports betting has been an enormous boon in New Jersey; in September, the state announced it had surpassed $1 billion in sports betting that month alone, the vast majority of which came from people’s cellphones or other device. That translated into some $46 million in tax revenue, according to the state’s Division of Gaming Enforcement.

The winning consortiums in New York will pay a 51 percent tax on profit from bets, as well as a $200 million onetime fee to the state. The term of the licenses will be 10 years.

Even before mobile sports betting blossomed into a multibillion industry, New York State was slower than many other states to embrace legalized gambling. That changed, somewhat, in 2013 when voters approved an expansion of gaming, allowing for seven new casinos to be built around the state. The caveat was that the first four licenses were only to be granted to upstate communities, with an eye toward increasing commerce in economically moribund areas.

Some of those new casinos, however, struggled mightily, even as gaming companies have pushed to have new licenses issued in more populous communities downstate, particularly in New York City — considered one of the few surefire locations left in the nation. Last month, that idea moved a step closer to reality when the gaming commission requested that companies interested in such licenses present their visions of what the facilities might look like by Dec. 10.

Mobile sports betting passed only after lawmakers addressed concerns from tribal nations that run casinos in the state, including the Oneida in Central New York, who feared intrusion on their longstanding deal with the state granting them exclusive gambling rights in their region.

The two winning consortiums announced Monday each included partnerships with those tribes, with FanDuel group partnering with the Seneca Nation, in western New York, and the consortium including Caesars working with the Oneidas and the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe on the Canadian border. Indeed, bidding companies were given bonus points to include tribal nations in their proposals.

Companies, however, also seemed aware of the state’s desire to maximize revenue, with some companies offering to pay more than 60 percent of their profits from bets to garner a license.

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