The midterm elections have concluded. Next on the agenda for Sen. Joe Addabbo: additional expansion of legalized gambling in New York — specifically the launch of NY online casinos.
While Addabbo has some new colleagues surrounding him, he also sees familiar faces, including a proponent of legal gambling expansion in Gov. Kathy Hochul. Individuals and groups who helped him get online sports betting across the finish line. Who helped approve the authorization of three downstate casino licenses.
Now, Addabbo will look to them again, this time to get New York online casinos legalized in 2023. And hopefully by as early as January.
“Gov. Hochul and her administration have been so amenable,” Addabbo said, “so willing to have an open-door discussion about gaming: mobile sports betting, downstate licenses, horse racing. Something we couldn’t even fathom to think about under a previous administration.
“It’s welcoming. It’s actually nice to have that kind of professionalism to actually have these kinds of conversations. So I look forward to having a conversation with the Hochul administration before January, before the Executive Budget and even during the budget process.”
New York retains Democrat trifecta
With Hochul officially being elected as state governor, and with both the Assembly and Senate going blue, New York earned the state legislature Democrat trifecta. Just as the Empire State was after the last election cycle, which eventually led to the legalization and launch of online sports betting in New York.
In the Senate, Addabbo, out of District 15, sits as one of 34 incumbent Democrats to earn reelection, joining 14 Republicans who also successfully defended their seats. And in the Assembly, 88 Democrats and 34 Republicans earned reelection. All told: 47 of the 59 decided Senate seats return (with another two potentially doing the same), same for 122 of the 145 decided spots in the Assembly (possibly with another four in close races).
That familiarity should serve Addabbo and his colleagues well as they pursue the legalization of online casinos in New York.
“They know me to just be rational in terms of what we’re trying to promote here: the jobs, the revenue funding, the educational funding, the addiction issues,” Addabbo said. “All I use is facts and figures. They know we can have a rational conversation, I hear their concerns. Many of their concerns sometimes get incorporated into the statutory language, and they’re thankful that we include them.
“I think it’s important to have that process of including all going forward. Most of my colleagues know that we’re going to look at this for the Executive Budget, or certainly for the final budget next year. So we’ll see how it goes.”
Addabbo focusing on NY gambling concerns
When Addabbo previously attempted to pass legislation to legalize NY online casinos, he acknowledged that the biggest challenge the state faces is gambling addiction.
Nothing has changed on that front. Addabbo wants to address any apprehensions surrounding addiction. Not only in discussions but as well as in statutory language. Just as he and his colleagues did when the state legalized NY online sports betting.
“My biggest issue is that if you really want to help someone with an addiction, then we really need to regulate it in New York,” Addabbo said. He added that New Yorkers are already participating in iGaming, whether illegally or in neighboring states.
“Like we made the argument with sports betting, if you really want to help someone with an addiction … or even pre-addiction, which is even more critical, regulate it in New York. Because you know they’re doing iGaming, but you can’t help them because you don’t know who they are. That’s going to be my main focus or main message when I go talk to my new colleagues going forward.”
All about ‘staying slightly ahead of the curve’
As legal online sports betting in New York prepared to launch, Addabbo heard concerns regarding a massive spike in calls to the HOPEline, which would be problematic for the Office of Addiction Services and Supports (OASAS) staff. Certainly calls increased after the launch of NY online sportsbooks. But nothing “off the charts,” as Addabbo put it.
“There have been phone calls and maybe even a slight increase. But it’s not ringing off the hook,” he said. “The idea here is we’re staying slightly ahead of the curve. When we expand gaming in New York, we include with that additional resources, additional funding, additional protocols and safety measures. We take care of it in the statutory language on the premise being, ‘Hey, we’re going to understand that we may have a slight increase, especially with iGaming because the population is greater than that of mobile sports betting. But we’re going to take care of it. We’re going to address it right in the statutory language. We’re going to take care of it.’
“I think by keeping it slightly ahead of the curve, we can handle this issue of addiction and pre-addiction, which is more important. We’re looking at 24/7 services through OASAs, peer-to-peer kind of programs. We want to address this issue. But that should not be the issue that stops us from realizing all the other benefits of iGaming.”
When will NY online casinos be legalized?
The work to legalize online casinos in New York begins now, according to Addabbo.
“We still know there’s an economic need in New York for revenue and education funds, always,” he said, noting that the state won’t receive any assistance from the federal government as it did during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Post-pandemic, post-COVID, we still have an economic black cloud over us. We still have a need for jobs. We’re still feeling the negative effects of COVID. We still have that that we have to address domestically, internally.”
To do that, Addabbo said, proponents of expanded legal online gambling in New York will follow the formula that helped legalize and launch NY online sports betting. That includes input from industry stakeholders to fine-tune statutory language as well as feedback from individuals and groups who oppose iGaming so as to include safety measures and protocols to address those concerns.
And that all begins now, according to Addabbo. Throughout November and December, Addabbo will speak with colleagues to potentially have language to include in the January Executive Budget. If not then, he will spend January, February and March honing that statutory language. All to hopefully have a final draft ready to include in the final budget in April.
“It’s a formula that has worked in the past with mobile sports betting,” Addabbo said. “And I’m hopeful that it can work again.”