Update: NY Downstate Casino Licenses Part Of Education Portion Of State Budget

Written By Mike Mazzeo on April 7, 2022 - Last Updated on April 8, 2022
new york state budget done

The three downstate New York casino licenses will be included in the ELFA (Education, Labor and Family Assistance) portion of the final NYS budget, Sen. Joe Addabbo said Friday morning.

The budget bill still requires a vote and Gov. Kathy Hochul’s signature to finally make it official.

Senate discussions on the budget bills concluded at 1:49 a.m. Friday.

Assemb. Gary Pretlow had said Thursday, “We’re at the doorstep” of the downstate licenses being included in the final NYS budget. 

Pretlow told PlayNY:

“We’re working on final language now. The gaming commission is going to work out all the parameters and putting together a site review board.” 

That six-member site review board is “more than likely” expected to include Gov. Hochul and NYC Mayor Eric Adams, Pretlow said. 

Added Gov. Hochul during her address after a conceptual agreement was reached:

“I want to see the additional licenses for three casinos in the state of New York.”

The fee floor for a coveted license could be between $500 million and whatever the highest bid is before potentially settling in the $750 million range. There was backlash from interested parties over the $1 billion minimum licensing fee that had been included in the one-house Senate budget.

The term of a license also has yet to be finalized, but it could be for 10 years or more. 

Assuming there are no last-minute setbacks — and that’s always a tough assumption when dealing with Albany — the New York State Gaming Commission (NYSGC) could begin the process by issuing a Request for Applications from interested bidders. 

The siting review board would determine viable locations based on local input. It will be a majority vote, so four votes will be required. A scoring system would need to be implemented before the NYSGC would determine the winning bidders. 

Video lottery terminals MGM Empire City and Resorts World NYC have garnered local support to become full-scale casinos. And while they’d have to go through the competitive bidding process like everyone else, they’d have a distinct advantage in the scoring system in terms of speed to market. 

Pretlow, who has MGM Empire City in his district, believes both VLTs would have no issues clearing the siting board. 

Las Vegas Sands, Hard Rock and Bally’s have all shown an interest in securing a coveted license to entire the NY downstate casino market. A new construction project could take three to four years after the bidding process concludes. 

Sen. Addabbo has said he’d like for that process to be completed by the end of the year, though it’s unclear whether that would be possible in what is an election year. 

What about NY sports betting expansion?

NY online sports betting expansion was not included in the budget, though Addabbo said he’ll still try for it — along with kiosks and getting fixed-odds horse racing on the apps — before the session ends June 2.

The state has collected over $160 million in tax revenue from Jan. 8 launch through April 3, so the appetite to add operators — while lowering the 51% tax rate — isn’t there.

Online casino in New York, which failed to gain any traction after being included late in this budget process — is expected to be a featured item for Addabbo in next year’s budget process.

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Mike Mazzeo

Mike Mazzeo is a contributing writer for PlayNY, reporting on legal sports betting in New York while covering the potential legalization of NY online casinos and poker. He previously wrote for ESPN, the New York Daily News and The Ringer, among others.

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