New York lawmakers have worked hard over the past few years to get the Empire State to expand legal gambling.
That, of course, resulted in the first retail sportsbook opening at Rivers Casino & Resorts in Schenectady, the launch of NY online sports betting in 2022 that quickly became the biggest state-run industry in the country and, more recently, the authorization to expedite three downstate casino licenses.
Yet Sen. Joe Addabbo, arguably the biggest proponent of gambling expansion and often behind legislation to do so, isn’t done. He never is. He still wants the state to legalize online casinos in NY.
But the process to award those three downstate licenses, which began in January, has moved at a snail’s pace. And some fear that it could affect the passage of legislation to authorize online casinos. Addabbo isn’t in that camp. But he does recognize the speed – or lack thereof – at which regulators are moving for downstate licensing.
“We need to move on,” Addabbo told PlayNY shortly after the first round of answers came out a few weeks ago. “We need to move on a more-expedited pace, really, to try to see if we can get few licenses done.”
Addabbo hopes downstate NY casino process speeds up
When Gov. Kathy Hochul signed off on expediting downstate casino licenses in April 2022, hope existed that the state could complete the request for applications process as late as early 2024.
The RFA went out in January 2023. The first step required interested parties to submit questions to the state by February. Many believed regulators would answer those questions within a few weeks. In fact, it took around six months.
“I figured the first phase of the question-and-answers was going to be robust,” Addabbo said. “I knew it. I’m hoping the second phase is going to be far shorter, less volume, so that we can move this process along.
“That has been one part of being frustrated is the slowness or the lack of quickness that this process is moving along.”
Now, state officials are poring over the second set of questions before the official application date is set.
If that weren’t enough, because of various factors, one analyst projected that New York won’t award downstate licenses until 2025.
Addabbo, though, maintains and emphasizes his faith in the New York State Gaming Commission and Gaming Facility Location Board to keep the process moving forward.
He also remains optimistic that this lengthy delay will not impact his ultimate goal of legalizing online casinos in New York as well as online lottery and NY online poker in 2024.
When it comes to NY online casino legalization, why not now?
So long as New York doesn’t have legal online casinos, Addabbo has been and will continue to be at the forefront of changing that fact.
Once again, the senator from Queens will introduce legislation soon that would legalize NY online casinos as well as internet lottery and online poker.
As Addabbo said in a press release over the summer:
“We should continue to build upon these solid revenue generating opportunities in order to make many additional improvements to our state’s gaming ventures and addiction services. I look forward to greater results with the future eventual arrival of iGaming and iLottery in New York.”
“I don’t think the state should sit on the sideline, once again, sitting on about a billion in revenue in iGaming and iLottery while other states are taking our money,” Addabbo told PlayNY. “New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and worse, the illegal market.
“With iGaming looming – and to me it’s not a question of if but a question of when – with the federal government not helping us financially, certainly, and maybe a recession around the corner, who knows? I think we have to talk about iGaming next year.”
NY online casino legalization should not affect downstate licensing
For Addabbo, legalizing online casinos in New York should not affect the downstate casino licensing process. Or vice versa. As he put it, “it’s a parallel track.”
“The process of downstate licenses is a separate, parallel track to iGaming so they do not interact with each other at some point,” Addabbo told PlayNY. “But the possibility of iGaming in New York actually, to me, increases the value of the license. Because in the bill drafted, those who have a license are able to get an iGaming license, as well.”
And this lengthy delay should not hinder the state legalizing online casino gaming. There should be no cannibalization in the licensing and legalization processes of downstate and online casinos, just as there won’t be any cannibalization once downstate casinos opens and online casinos go live.
“We have seen in states like New Jersey and others where we have seen coexistence with iGaming and brick-and-mortar,” Addabbo said. “We can build within the language of the iGaming (bill) those measures that protect brick-and-mortar jobs, too, so there will be no cannibalization.
“So I think … if we do our job right, the due diligence with the iGaming language of the bill beforehand, before session starts in January, I think we could pave the road to doing it in the budget.”
New York ‘should not be handcuffed’ because of delay
Addabbo echoed the sentiment multiple times and ultimately agreed: New York was built on multitasking.
Along that reasoning, why should this downstate licensing delay affect ultimate legalization of online casinos in New York?
“We should not be handcuffed and frozen in time expanding one at the expense of the other,” Addabbo said. “So we can’t be frozen and say, ‘No, we can’t do iGaming because we’re still doing downstate licenses.’ We’re New York State. We can multitask.
“There’s no sense in being frozen and not doing iGaming while we’re just working on the downstate license process that is ongoing and moving ahead. Ever so slowly, but it’s moving ahead.”
The same logic goes for sports betting in NY, Addabbo said. Sure, the state has become the No. 1 legal sports betting industry in the country. But New York should always look for ways to improve the product for its residents.
“Don’t let one gaming issue just monopolize your time and freeze everything else out,” Addabbo said. “That’s not right. This is New York. We can multitask.”