Capitol Watch: Sports betting on agenda, more incivility

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New York lawmakers are considering legislation that would allow wagering on sports on mobile devices, an issue that’s also being debated in other states.

The Senate Standing Committee on Racing, Gaming, and Wagering will hear testimony Wednesday in Albany.

Meanwhile, a Republican state lawmaker from the Buffalo area explained his statement saying New York Democrats are striving to “eradicate” opponents in the state.

A look at stories making news:

SPORTS BETTING

A ruling last year by the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for sports betting outside Nevada, the only state where it was previously legal. New Jersey and six other states have since legalized sports betting. New York is likely to join them this summer.

Under current plans, it will only be allowed at four upstate casinos, but Senate gambling committee co-chairmen Sens. Joseph P. Addabbo Jr., of Queens, and Gary Pretlow, of Mount Vernon, have introduced legislation that would also allow sports betting on mobile devices as well as eventually permitting it at non-casino venues such as sports stadiums and arenas.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said expanding sports betting beyond the four non-Native American-owned casinos requires a voter-approved constitutional amendment.

Fellow Democrats who control the Legislature dispute that, saying the state can already allow it. Addabbo called limiting sports gambling to four casinos “baby steps.”

“By not doing the mobile component, we’re merely scratching the surface,” he said.

The state Gaming Commission formally posted its rules for sports betting March 20, starting a 60-day period during which the public can weigh in on the issue. When that period ends on May 20, the commission will review the public comments. Barring any subsequent changes to the regulations, the panel could approve sports betting at its next meeting, which hasn’t been scheduled yet.

Wagering on sports will become legal once the regulations are published in the New York State Register.

Sports betting only will be allowed at four casinos: Rivers in Schenectady, Del Lago in the Finger Lakes region, Tioga Downs in the Southern Tier and Resorts World Catskills in Sullivan County.

Addabbo said he hopes the casinos will be taking bets on sports by the time college football season starts in late August, followed by the start of the NFL season.

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CAPITOL INCIVILTY

Divisive rhetoric isn’t just for Washington, D.C. It’s also alive and flourishing in Albany.

Last week, after news broke that state Attorney General Letitia James had opened an investigation into the National Rifle Association’s tax-exempt status, Republican Sen. Rob Ortt put out a statement suggesting that James and Cuomo are after a lot more than the NRA’s tax status.

“Their message is clear,” Ortt, of North Tonawanda, wrote in the statement. “It is not enough to oppose gun owners, conservatives, and others with whom they disagree, they will wage legal, taxpayer-funded campaigns to eradicate those individuals and organizations from existence.”

Asked about the last sentence, Ortt said he only meant to suggest that Cuomo and James want to drive conservatives from New York — and not that they want to kill anyone.

Ortt said he doubted anyone reading the statement would take him literally. He told The Associated Press he composed the statement in a moment of “passion.”

“It is very scary to me they could use the state to basically try to silence or destroy an organization” like the NRA, he said.

James’ office has said she is focused on enforcing the rule of law and the investigation will follow the facts.

It’s not the first time this year that someone in the Capitol has let their passion get the best of their word choice.

In December, Sen. Kevin Parker, D-Brooklyn, outraged many when he took to Twitter to urge a Republican staffer to kill herself. Parker later apologized to Candace Giove, a GOP Senate aide who had questioned the senator’s use of a state-issued parking placard.

In March, Rich Azzopardi, a senior adviser to Cuomo, got into hot water when he called three female lawmakers “idiots” after they accused the governor of hypocrisy for holding a major fundraiser just before the budget passed.

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