While Not Officially In The Budget, Online Casinos Could Still Get 2024 Nod For Legalization

Written By Grant Lucas on March 26, 2024
Sen. Joseph Addabbo during the NEXT Summit in New York for a story on the next steps for legalizing online casinos

Hopes of legalizing online casinos in New York in 2024 have died.

For now, anyway.

While Sen. Joseph Addabbo has said that NY online casinos will not be included in either one-house budget, Addabbo still holds out hope that iGaming could sneak into the budget as 2024 rolls on. If not, perhaps 2025 will become the year lawmakers further expand online gambling in New York.

Regardless, Addabbo emphasized: “It’s all governor-driven. The governor has to want it.”

“I’m a realist,” Addabbo told PlayNY, confirming again that neither the Senate nor Assembly will include iGaming in their one-house budgets.

“I’m an optimist but also a realist. And you know, in Albany, anything can happen. But there’s many pieces to the puzzle … It takes the governor to pull the pieces together, the Hotel Trades Council included, and say, ‘OK, how do we move forward?'”

Bill in ‘holding pattern’ as Addabbo wants chance to discuss iGaming with opponents

As he told PlayUSA earlier this month and reiterated with PlayNY recently, Addabbo said efforts to legalize iGaming in New York remain “in a holding pattern.”

That is, until the governor steps in and decides online casinos in NY can benefit the state as it faces a budget deficit exceeding $4 billion this year and potentially over $9 billion in 2025.

But the major hurdle, arguably the only hurdle, for passage remains the New York Hotel and Gaming Trades Council (HTC), which currently represents over 5,000 gaming workers with thousands more on the way once downstate casinos open. The HTC fears cannibalization of retail properties, calling the iGaming bill “a job killer.”

All Addabbo wants is a chance to talk to the HTC or any opponents for online casino legalization.

“Again, what is it that would need to be addressed?” Addabbo told PlayNY. “If there’s no willingness there [from the HTC], it’s the governor pulling us to the table and saying, ‘OK, we may not WANT to do iGaming. But we may NEED to do iGaming.’

“There’s a $9 billion deficit next year. We could really use the money for healthcare. Because iGaming is a new product, we could use revenue for different things, possibly like healthcare. You want to offset healthcare costs, you want to increase Medicaid reimbursement? It could be healthcare. It could be transportation. It could be colleges and higher education. Anything you need about $100 million in the first year for is iGaming. It may be the governor who says, ‘I need to do this.’ Not want, but need.”

Addabbo: You want jobs more quickly? Online casinos is the answer

Addabbo assured that he, like the HTC, does not want anything to threaten the jobs of casino workers in the state. A lifelong resident of Queens, Addabbo represents many constituents, for example, who work at nearby Resorts World NYC. Resorts World employees, in fact, penned a letter of opposition to legalizing online casinos in New York.

Of course, Addabbo said, he doesn’t want those people to lose their jobs. Quite the opposite, in fact.

“I only want to GROW those jobs for my constituents and statewide, certainly,” Addabbo said, noting that his bill included a $25 million fund to help protect brick-and-mortars.

“If that is not that answer, then what is? Let’s work. Let’s talk about it. The willingness to understand a situation, to understand an issue, but the willingness to also work on it, that’s what it will take to make iGaming go forward in New York.”

However, as Addabbo puts it, the HTC and its union workers “just aren’t interested in iGaming at this point.” The senator understands why, not just the cannibalization but also the concern that iGaming would interefere with the downstate licensing process. The state wants those properties around the New York City area to begin developing and opening as soon as possible, thus creating thousands of jobs.

Yet, again, Addabbo provides a counterpoint. As the licensing process as dragged on, it appears as if those new jobs “won’t be realized until 2026,” Addabbo said. The licensing process “is moving way too slow.” With online casinos, he said, the state can create union jobs “in a year, less than a year … because I can get you live dealers.”

Legalization can ‘always be considered and revived’

Addabbo remains optimistic that in the near future, New York will legalize online casinos. There is no obstacle, he said, big enough to prevent iGaming from coming to the Empire State.

“Anything thrown our way, we can address,” Addabbo said. “But what does it take? It takes a willingness to have a conversation. If there’s no willingness to have a conversation, we do not move forward. On any issue.

“There’s always a pathway forward. You just have to have initiative. You have to figure it out. And I’m ready. I’ll always be ready. But it can never be just me or any single legislator. Any state that has iGaming is because that governor wanted it or needed it.”

New Yorkers are already using legal online casinos in neighboring New Jersey and Pennsylvania, he said. Money lost to those jurisdictions. Not to mention those gamblers in New York who use the illegal, offshore market, which Addabbo called “damaging” and “dangerous.”

Addabbo stands at the ready if his cohorts or the governor change course. If at any point legislators realize there is a shortfall in the budget and New York needs to fill a billion-dollar hole, legal online casinos could be added. That could come as the budget session concludes over the next week or even after the legislative session ends. Even into December, Addabbo said, lawmakers might see they are short and integrate iGaming to help cover the gap.

“At any point, it could always be considered and revived,” Addabbo said. “So we always just have to stand ready, and I do, to talk about the bill and amend the bill to make it better. … Our legislation will always be a starting point. But only 65% of our mobile sports betting bill got into the final product.

Addabbo added:

“They know it’s out there. They know what the potential is. Nobody knew how well mobile sports betting would do. They knew we had the potential. But nobody knew we would be breaking records. There’s no crystal ball. But we knew we had the potential. And if you saw the potential of mobile sports betting, then you can just imagine the potential we have for iGaming.”

Photo by Alex Weldon / PlayNY
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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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