No state-regulated sports betting industry has seen the success New York has enjoyed in less than two years of existence.
In November, NY sportsbooks accepted over $2 billion in bets. No state ever exceeded that total in a month. And it was New York’s second straight month doing so.
In less than two years, online sports betting in New York has taken in over $33 billion in wagers – second only to New Jersey and Nevada in the post-PASPA era, and both of which got a four-year head start on the Empire State.
What’s more, New York sportsbooks have generated nearly $3 billion in gross gaming revenue. Only New Jersey, at $3.2 billion, has more. But no state has pocketed more state tax revenue, at almost $1.5 billion, than New York.
Incredible, yes. But for Sen. Joe Addabbo, while it is a chance to celebrate, it only means one thing: There’s more to be had. And it comes in the form of legal online casinos in New York.
NY sports betting still finding ways to grow – and set records
A champion of New York (finally) legalizing online sports betting in 2021, leading to the historic launch in January 2022, Addabbo always knew New York had the potential to make its mark on the legal sports betting world. But, he conceded, to do so in less than two years – and to this magnitude – “that’s what’s astonishing.”
“That first weekend in January of 2022, we broke national records with only four operators,” Addabbo told PlayNY, referring to the $150 million in handle during the first few days of online sports betting in New York, a number that becomes even more incredible when you consider that the state’s retail sportsbooks at upstate casinos took in $197.5 million in bets during the entirety of 2021.
“My eyes were opened up then about really maximizing mobile sports betting in New York. And now you’re looking at it, here we are at the end of 2023, and it’s remarkable – both nationally and globally being perceived not only as the leader in the mobile sports market but the leader in the iGaming potential market.”
After such a stratospheric start, NY sports betting has only grown since then. Sportsbooks should clear $3 billion in gross revenue by the end of the year, inching the total tax revenue closer to $2 billion.
Which is what makes Addabbo shift his attention.
Now is the year to legalize NY online casinos
New York faces a $4.3 billion budget deficit next year. Addabbo knows, when it comes to budgetary talks, the first place to go to is cuts. He called it “bad policy” to raise taxes, especially in an election year. Gov. Kathy Hochul has already gone on record saying she won’t do such a thing.
“Taxes are high enough in the state of New York,” Hochul said last month, “and we have to live within our means.”
But cuts will only take you so far, Addabbo said. And you can’t dip into your reserves, as another pandemic or recession might be looming just around the corner. Instead, the state needs to uncover avenues that lead to more revenue for the state. “And here it is,” Addabbo said: legal online casinos in New York.
“The reason why iGaming makes such prudent sense is that New Yorkers are already doing it,” the senator told PlayNY. “You don’t have to recreate the wheel. They’re going to New Jersey, they’re going to other states, they’re doing it illegally, they’re doing it already. If you want to help a New Yorker that has this addiction with doing iGaming, you can’t help them at all right now because you don’t know who they are.
“So we’re going to regulate it, not only to address the budgetary issue, not only to stop the flow of money to other states, but actually help an individual who could have an addiction. You get to help that person when you regulate iGaming in New York. Yes, this is the year to do it.”
New York loses $1 billion to neighboring states with online casino gaming
Around February 2023, online sports betting in New York crossed the $800 million state tax revenue mark. Around that time, Addabbo picked back up talks about legalizing online casinos. An analyst told him that the Empire State was sitting on a billion dollars in revenue.
As Addabbo remembered it, he took that number back to his colleagues, “and they laughed.”
But Addabbo told them what was already realized: online sports betting had almost ALREADY reached that figure. In just over a year. Online casinos cater to a much wider demographic. You won’t find Addabbo spouting his own projections for New York online casinos. He’ll leave that to the analysts.
But, he added, “given the fact that we lose about a billion dollars a year to New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and, worse, the illegal market, to iGaming … makes me think even moreso that, yeah, we’re standing on AT LEAST a billion dollars when you talk about iGaming and iLottery in New York.
“It is conceivable. It’s certainly attainable. And, again, building upon the success of mobile sports betting. … It’s not immediate. It’ll take a bit of time. But, yeah, we could probably do that in the first year with iGaming.”
Fear remains about cannibalization of retail NY casinos
If online sports betting in New York proved a flop, there’s a slim chance Addabbo would pursue online casino legalization. But New York isn’t in that position. Quite the opposite: New York boasts the No. 1 sports betting industry in the country. And that, he emphasized, is what lawmakers should build upon.
“You build upon success,” Addabbo said. “You don’t ignore it. You don’t push it to the side. You build upon success. That’s what we should do with iGaming.”
Addabbo has made it know that he intends to introduce legislation to legalize NY online casinosby the end of the year, in hopes that it is included in the state’s Executive Budget in January.
One of the biggest hurdles comes from the New York Hotel and Gaming Trades Council, the union for hotel and gaming workers in New York. Fear remains that green-lighting online casinos would cannibalize brick-and-mortar casinos, those upstate as well as the incoming downstate properties around the New York City area. By no means does Addabbo, whose district includes Resorts World NYC, want that to happen. Rather, he wants to bolster the union, which he believes will happen by legalizing online casinos.
“All those live dealers that have to be in New York, all the live studio workers that have to be in New York, those are union members. So we not only protect the current brick-and-mortar workers, we actually increase the union members there,” Addabbo said.
Addabbo ready to push NY online casino legislation across finish line
Addabbo cites New Jersey and Indiana as examples where retail casino business has grown alongside their respective online casino industries. In New Jersey, online casinos generated $2.8 million in revenue in December 2016; Atlantic City casinos reported $189.7 million. Last month, NJ online casinos set a record with $171.6 million in revenue, while AC casinos jumped to $214.9 million.
Like the union, Addabbo doesn’t want to see cannibalization. But he also has no concerns about it. In his mind, in the minds of many, no worry is great enough to derail online casino legalization in 2024. Addabbo has listened to every concern. And he has taken each into account has he drafts legislation.
All of this makes this coming legislative introduction the strongest one has ever been in New York. And it makes 2024 the ideal time to legalize online casinos in New York.
“We try to address every concern that has come our way,” Addabbo said.
“And every obstacle, in my opinion, we have jumped over. Every hurdle thrown our way, we have jumped over. I’m ready. I’m ready to have this conversation. Hopefully we get the opportunity.”