When New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s team sat down at the negotiating table with legislative leaders on a deal this spring that will bring mobile sports betting to the Empire State, the sides remained at an impasse on a key provision involving tribal gaming entities.
Now, as top mobile sportsbooks work feverishly to submit applications for New York’s competitive bidding process on online sports wagering, the status of tribal gaming operators in the new marketplace still hangs in the balance. The New York Gaming Commission, which is in charge of regulating online sports wagering across the state, will select a minimum of two platform providers and a minimum of four mobile sports betting operators at the completion of the process. Bids are due early next month.
While applicants will receive five bonus points for including a tribal entity in their submission, the applicants are not compelled to offer a mobile sports betting skin to a tribal group. The arrangement conflicts with language in a proposed bill that would have guaranteed the Oneida Indian Nation inclusion in New York’s mobile sports betting market.
“Our plan gave them a seat at the table, now they just have entrance into the room,” New York Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow told Sports Handle. “It’s kind of unfair to them.”
The scoring process
+ Reflections on the sportsbook experience
— Sports Handle (@sports_handle) July 14, 2021
Earlier this month, the commission released a 130-page Requests For Approvals (RFA), initiating a bidding process that is expected to be as intense as any since the repeal of PASPA in May 2018. Applicants can receive up to 75 points under a category called “technical factors,” which covers considerations such as expertise in the U.S. sports betting market.
- Expertise in the market of the applicant and the applicant’s proposed operators — 25 points
- Integrity, sustainability, and safety of the mobile sports wagering platform — 20 points
- Past relevant experience of the applicant and the applicant’s proposed operators — 15 points
- Advertising and promotional plans — 7.5 points
- Capacity to rapidly and efficiently bring authorized sports bettors into the applicant’s platform — 2.5 points
- Applicant’s efforts to foster racial, ethnic, and gender diversity in applicant’s workforce and each of the applicant’s proposed operators’ workforce — 2.5 points
- Other factors impacting revenue to the state — 2.5 points
An applicant that submits a revenue-sharing plan with a Native American tribe will receive five additional points, according to the RFA. As a result, it behooves an applicant to entertain the possibility of partnering with a tribe. But it isn’t essential. The maximum bonus points for such a partnership are one-fifth of the top factor (expertise in the marketplace). In addition, an applicant that fosters racial, ethnic, and gender diversity in the workplace and demonstrates an ability for speed to market will earn as many points as those that partner with a tribal entity.
“A tribe has no advantage in trying to do it on their own because they only get five points,” an industry expert told Sports Handle. “It just goes to show that it was much more of an afterthought.”
Who'll be in or out in the (generally) coveted NYS online betting market?
Today the commission outlined a scoring methodology for the state's mobile sports wagering bidding process in the 130-page document.
— Sports Handle (@sports_handle) July 9, 2021
Avoiding a carve-out
Located in Central New York, the Oneida Indian Nation owns several casinos, most notably Turning Stone Resort Casino in Vernon, 35 miles east of Syracuse. Although the tribal group has not announced a primary platform provider that it plans to partner with, there are strong indications that the Oneida Nation will submit an application as a mobile sports betting operator. In 2019, the tribal nation selected Caesars Entertainment to form an alliance for constructing a retail sports betting lounge at Turning Stone and two other casino properties.
It is unclear if Caesars plans to submit an application as a platform provider. Complicating matters is a 2013 settlement between the Oneidas and New York State, under which the tribe received exclusivity on all new online and retail casino games in a 10-county region in Central New York. During budget negotiations, political leaders in the region warned that if the tribal nation is cut out of mobile sports betting, the action could result in the cessation of up to $70 million in settlement payments to the state each year.
“We assume that the state will follow through on the Cuomo Administration’s assurance that Central New Yorkers will not be carved out of mobile sports betting opportunities, and that the state will comply with its agreements with the Oneida Indian Nation, so we will participate in the process,” said Joel Barkin, who serves as vice president of communications for the Oneida Nation. “The [Oneida] Nation is prepared to move forward with other options available to it, however, if that’s not the case.”
Oneida Indian Nation statement on mobile sports betting deal tonight in NYS. The central NY tribe this week said looming sports deal would result in breach of 2013 deal with NYS for exclusive gambling in its region & halt of its $70M in payments to NYS/localities. pic.twitter.com/OgIscx4zy7
— Tom Precious (@TomPreciousALB) April 7, 2021
For its part, Cuomo’s team has indicated that it would like the Oneidas to participate in the state’s mobile sports betting scheme. Robert Mujica, Cuomo’s budget director, said as much in April shortly before an agreement was reached to include online sports wagering in New York’s fiscal year budget. The state would also like to avoid a messy legal situation on the availability of mobile sports betting in the 10-county region if the tribe somehow is not selected.
“We want all the counties to participate — we want the Oneidas to participate — we want to honor all the terms of the existing compacts,” Mujica said on an April conference call.
Given the high stakes of the bidding process, top tribal gaming leaders nationwide are hesitant to comment publicly on the New York developments. The leaders hardly addressed the topic at this week’s Indian Gaming Tradeshow and Convention in Las Vegas, a source told Sports Handle. The conference is one of the longest-running gaming summits in the nation.
The deadline for submissions is rapidly approaching. Applications are due by 4 p.m. ET on Aug. 9, the commission wrote in the RFA.