Special Session To Find ‘Alternative Funding’ For MTA Could Revive NY Online Casino Talks

Written By Grant Lucas on June 19, 2024
Logo for New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority for a story on a special legislative session reviving talks to legalize online casinos.

Perhaps hopes of legalizing online casinos in New York in 2024 aren’t completely dashed just yet.

According to reports, Gov. Kathy Hochul is considering a special legislative session beginning as soon as July as the state continues to look for ways to fund the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) amid its fiscal troubles. Although there are no definitive plans in place just yet, PlayNY has learned.

Per the Gothamist, the Empire State faces a “laundry list of construction projects to improve New York City’s subway system,” and Hochul assured that conversations surrounding those projects will move forward despite the regular legislative session ending earlier this month.

If a special session does come to fruition, it’s almost certain that the topic of legalizing online casinos in NY will be broached once again.

Funding for MTA coming from downstate casinos, but iGaming could help

Some two years ago, legislators agreed to expedite the issuing of three downstate casino licenses around New York City. It was agreed, too, that revenue from the licensing fees – which expect to cost a minimum of $500 million each – would go toward MTA funding.

However, the downstate licensing process has taken longer than expected, with state officials expecting to announce the winning bidders by the end of 2025.

While lawmakers recently passed a bill to potentially speed up that timeline, the MTA remains in waiting for the much-needed revenue.

Hochul decided against raising a congestion tax that would raise toll prices around Manhattan. But she still expressed an interest in continuing the MTA projects “with alternative funding.”

Could NY online casinos be the answer to MTA problems

Sen. Joseph Addabbo made his annual push to legalize online casinos in New York in 2023, during which time he made the case for iGaming in the Empire State.

New York needs money relatively quickly in the face of historically high budget deficits, Addabbo has the answer: legal online casinos.

“We can give her more significant money in a quicker timeframe than 2026, and it’s unspoken for money because it’s a new product, and that’s iGaming,” Addabbo told PlayNY in 2023.

“So we’re not shifting it from education. In the bill it says education, but it’s a placeholder. This is new revenues. So you want to use it for healthcare, you want to use it for social services, you want to use part of it for the MTA? Here it is.”

Addabbo has maintained that line of thinking. While downstate casino licensing fees are significant, the state won’t realize that revenue for at least another year and a half, potentially. Online casinos in New York could provide a more noteworthy and immediate impact.

Howard Glaser, the global head of governement affairs for Light & Wonder, agrees.

“The message to New York is: Please tax us,” Glaser told the Gothamist.

“We have a billion dollars for you and it can start virtually tomorrow.”

Photo by Seth Wenig / AP Photo
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Grant Lucas

Grant Lucas is the managing editor for PlayNY. A longtime, award-winning sports writer, Grant has covered gambling and legal sports betting since 2018, when he got his start reporting on the New Jersey and Pennsylvania industries. He now oversees PlayNY as New York expands legalized gambling to sports betting and online casino gaming.

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