Sports Betting Conversation Raises Constitutional Concerns

Legislation to allow sports betting on mobile devices continues to be a topic of conversation in Albany.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is pursuing regulatory changes that would allow sports betting at casinos. However, the gambling industry wants to go beyond this by passing legislation allowing sports betting on mobile devices. This idea is not just objectionable from the perspective of public health (sports gambling on mobile devices could easily ensnare many in gambling addiction). It is also problematic from a constitutional perspective. According to the New York Post, “Current state law only allows in-person sports gambling at four upstate casinos, and Cuomo has previously said that allowing remote betting via a mobile-phone app would require an amendment to the state Constitution.” Others take the view that mobile sports betting could be allowed without a constitutional amendment so long as the computer servers being used were located in casinos. In other words, a sports gambler could be seated on the 50-yard line at an NFL game and betting on the game via a server located in a casino hundreds of miles away. In the past, Gov. Cuomo has expressed doubt about the legality of mobile sports betting; however, his attitude seems to be softening.

At New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, we believe that the State Constitution does not allow mobile sports betting at any location other than a gambling casino. If advocates wish to push mobile sports gambling, they must go through the constitutional amendment process—and if they do, we will oppose them.