Assemblywoman wants percentage of mobile betting revenue to fund youth sports

Legislative Gazette file photo
Assemblywoman Monica Wallace is urging her colleagues to set aside a small percentage of mobile sports betting revenue for youth sports programs to “eradicate barriers that prevent children and teens from working class households from participating in sports.”

With Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposing mobile sports betting as part of his budget plans, a Buffalo-area assemblywoman is asking colleagues to make sure some revenue is directed to youth sports programs, equipment and facilities.

Assemblywoman Monica Wallace, D-Lancaster, says that any sports betting revenue should dedicate some funds for youth sports and other recreation programs in New York.


Wallace wants to set aside 5 to 10 percent of mobile sports betting revenue to “help to eradicate barriers that prevent children and teens from working class households from participating in sports,” she said.

Wallace cites research that shows individuals who played sports in their childhood have more positive outcomes than those who do not. The Washington D.C. – based Aspen Institute found that “people who play youth sports are less likely to be obese, less likely to smoke or abuse drugs, less likely to become pregnant as a teenager, perform better on tests, are more likely to go to college, have lower levels of depression and higher levels of self-esteem, and earn 7 to 8 percent higher incomes later in life,” according to a press release from Wallace.

But playing sports can be cost-prohibitive for some families. The Institute found that individuals who grow up in households making less than $25,000 participate in sports at just one-third of the rate that individuals from a $100,000 or more income-making households participate in.

Wallace’s proposal is to allocate a small portion of mobile sports betting revenue, between 5 to 10 percent, to a dedicated fund to “level the playing field” and allow all youth across New York to participate in sports and recreational programs. These funds would be given to improve the recreational facilities, ball fields, provide equipment or help reduce membership fees.

“Using sports betting proceeds to fund community sports is a game-changing idea,” said Tom Farrey, executive director of the Aspen Institute’s Sports & Society Program, who has written on the topic. “We get healthier, happier kids and more active, vibrant communities – the places where people want to raise their families.”

Gov. Cuomo, on January 6th of this year, introduced a plan to bring mobile sports betting to the state. Sports betting is already allowed in state sanctioned casinos, but the ability to bet on professional sports with a mobile app, on one’s phone, is expected to drastically increase interest, and revenue for the state, which is facing a $15 billion budget shortfall at the moment.

“New York has the potential to be the largest sports wagering market in the United States, and by legalizing online sports betting we aim to keep millions of dollars in revenue here at home, which will only strengthen our ability to rebuild from the COVID-19 crisis,” Cuomo said.

Th governor believes that sports betting will be successful in New York, since it is the largest sports market in the country.

According to recent news reports, New Jersey is taking in $1 billion a month in sports betting revenue, much of that coming from neighboring New Yorkers.

Wallace, and those who support her plan, believe some of this annual revenue would be a smart investment for the health of young people across the state.

“There is no question that involvement in youth sports and recreation has myriad benefits for children,” said Darren Treadway, director of Daemen College’s Center for Excellence in Youth Sports. “Research has consistently shown that participation in youth sports improves self-esteem, academic performance, interpersonal skills, and overall well-being.”

A Johns Hopkins University study shows that if 100 percent of youth in Western New York were active daily, that would save more than 91,000 years of life as well as $1.2 billion in medical costs and another $1.2 billion in averted productivity losses.

Even getting just 25 percent of area youth to exercise daily — up from 16 percent who currently do so — would save 10,000 years of life and over $260 million in medical costs and averted productivity losses, the study shows.

“By investing in youth sports and recreation, we would be providing more opportunities to develop future players and foster a love for the game among the next generation,” Wallace said. “I urge my colleagues in the Legislature to support my proposal to set aside a portion of the mobile sports betting revenue and invest it in the next generation of athletes.”