In-Depth: Gambling on the future

[anvplayer video=”5161871″ station=”998131″]

ROCHESTER, N.Y. The Super Bowl is Sunday. It’s the most popular sports betting event of the year.

Here in New York, the state just celebrated its first anniversary of legal mobile sports wagering, and there was reason to celebrate – 700 million reasons, with the majority of that windfall promised to education.

It’s safe to say the first year of legalized mobile sports wagering was a financial success. New York is now the undisputed leader among states when it comes to cashing in on those bets. In its first year, $16.6 billion was wagered in New York. That generated total tax revenue of $709 million.

“It exceeded all expectations that I had and obviously what the state anticipated,” said State Senator Pam Helming.

The state has promised the money will fund education. During her budget address last week, Governor Hochul announced aid to schools would increase by a record $3.1 billion, in part, due to that $709 million windfall from mobile sports gambling.

“So we’ve made sure that we’re investing properly,” Hochul said after the budget address.

And school districts like York Central in Livingston County are watching closely. In this rural district of about 700 students, the needs are great.

“We have around 53% of our students in poverty,” said York Schools Superintendent David Furletti. “So some of it is how do we level the playing field for them.”

We asked Furletti to imagine how York might spend its share of the additional money. He pointed to a number of priorities in instructional programming, enrichment opportunities and remedial services.

“Whether it’s our students struggling with reading or math or just in general. And there’s also the mental health and social-emotional impact the past couple years have had on students and how do we meet their needs,” Furletti said.

Furletti says recruiting and keeping good teachers are also tops on his wish list.

“If we can count on this money for years to come it could really be a game changer in terms of both recruitment and retaining of high talented staff.”

But while state leaders have cheered the pot of money that mobile sports gambling has laid at their feet, little has been said about how specifically it will be allocated.

“I guess my biggest concern and what I’m calling for is some accountability,” said Helming.

She sits on the Racing, Gaming, and Wagering Committee. Even she doesn’t know how the gaming money will be dispersed.

“When I ask questions, where’s all this money going and I’m told it’s going to education. Great, give me a breakdown. I want to see where it’s going. How much are my schools realizing.”

We contacted the governor’s office in hopes of tracking the money. We asked if the tax money collected from wagering would fund specific programs.

In a statement, a spokesperson said, “Mobile sports wagering revenue is distributed to local school districts by the same statutory formulas used to distribute other state aid to education. It takes into account a school district’s size, student need, and income and property wealth per pupil.”

Furletti says rural districts like his have not benefited as much from the new state aid formula. Nonetheless, he remains hopeful.

Brett Davidsen: “Is there a way to quantify how it could result in student achievement?
David Furletti: “If it would be enough to hire another teacher for remedial reading or reading intervention, math intervention, then we could definitely have some quantifiable data to go by.”

We’ll get a better idea of how that money is distributed once the state budget is passed in April.
Additionally, $5 million of the money is pledged to youth sports and another $6 million will go toward gambling education and treatment.