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Sports betting came to New York State on Tuesday – or at least one tiny corner of it. First-into-the-market kudos goes to Rivers Casino near Schenectady, which opened its sports book six years after New York voters approved sports betting via public referendum, and more than a year after the US Supreme Court quashed the federal ban.

New York sports betting
New York State Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow studies the odds at the brand-new Rivers Sports Book on Tuesday morning. Pretlow is leading the charge for mobile wagering in the state. (Image: David Klepper/AP)
Rivers is the first of the eight commercial and tribal casinos that currently have sports books under construction. Tioga Downs is expected to open its own at 2.30pm on Friday.

Among those gathered at the Rivers to place the first celebrity ceremonial wagers were former New York Giants punter Sean Landeta, former New York Jets safety Erik Coleman, and New York Yankee legend Bucky Dent.

But the first bet of the night went to State Assemblyman Gary Pretlow (D-Mount Vernon), who plunked $20 on the Mariners in their game against the A’s.

It didn’t go well for him.

Mobile Next
It’s not the first time Pretlow has backed an underdog. His bill to authorize state-wide mobile sports betting in New York this year was always going to be a heavy lift due to opposition from the governor’s office — and it failed to get taken up in the Assembly.

But addressing the crowd at Tuesday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony, Pretlow said he was optimistic mobile would be on the menu next year.

We’re going to get mobile sports betting before the middle of next year — it just has to be — because right now New Jersey is cleaning our clock when it comes to sports betting,” he said. “I think New York should always be at the forefront of everything and right now we’re a little bit behind them.”

One bettor who spoke to The New York Post said the new sports book “was not like Vegas, but it’s good for upstate New York.”

But the New York sports betting market has the potential to be not only much bigger than Las Vegas’ but one of the biggest in the world – although it needs mobile to realize this.

Analysts Eilers & Krejcik Gaming have estimated that a mature New York market with full-scale mobile sports betting would generate just over $1 billion per year.

Constitutional Spat
But Governor Andrew Cuomo believes mobile sports betting is unconstitutional because New York residents did not specifically authorize it when they voted in 2013 to legalize commercial casinos, along with land-based sports betting in those casinos.

Pretlow’s bill argued that mobile wagering would not be unconstitutional if all mobile operators acted as “affiliates” of the four upstate casinos, which were created as a result of 2013 public referendum. Since the servers would be based at the four casinos, Pretlow believes all gambling transactions would be taking place on licensed premises.

Pretlow himself was the author the amendment voters approved in 2013. He says now that he would have included mobile had he had the foresight.

But then again, he also should have had his money on the A’s.

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