Overall, the chances of a New York online casino bill passing in 2023 remains slim. But Sen. Joe Addabbo will not waver from his optimism for the opposite to occur.
He saw low odds in 2021 as his online sports betting bill seemingly neared its demise, only for that piece of legislation to cross the finish line and lead to the nation’s top market.
It appears as if the Senate or the Assembly will need to include NY online casinos in its budget by the end of the week in order for the vertical to receive legalization this year. If not, lawmakers like Addabbo will have to reset and take aim at 2024.
Yet, again, Addabbo — the indefatigable senator — remains optimistic.
“The bottom line is, whether it lays to the foundation (for 2024) or we do it this year so you’re realizing the revenue this year, we’ll see,” Addabbo told PlayNY. “This is what budget negotiations are for. I won’t be the only one out there screaming that we should have iGaming. It has to be a collective agreement between the governor’s office and our side in the Senate and the Assembly.”
NY online casinos creates new, strong revenue stream
New York has seen ample legal gaming expansion over the past two years: NY online sports betting in 2021 followed by downstate commercial casinos in 2022. That, as Addabbo will tell you, is momentum.
And with online casinos in New York, the state can create a new revenue stream through an industry that will surely create even more revenue for the state than online sports betting.
Gov. Kathy Hochul, who excluded NY online casinos from her January executive budget, noted her desire to use fees and tax revenue from downstate casino licenses for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). For 2026.
Not only is that target too far down the road, Addabbo said, but the governor can achieve that goal without taking money away from public education.
“Every year the gaming industry gives about $4 billion to education,” Addabbo explained. “I can’t go back to my district and say, ‘We took money out of education to give to the MTA through downstate licenses.’ That’s a hard sell. I don’t feel comfortable doing it.
“But I will offer a counterproposal to the governor: 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. 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.”
It’s not just a new source of revenue. It’s one that likely could overshadow the production seen from NY sports betting.
“We did $800 million already in revenue and educational funds from mobile sports betting in a year,” Addabbo said. “I’ve got to figure the estimates of iGaming would be well over $1 billion.”
New York seeing online casino action — in other states
When the governor omitted NY online casinos from her executive budget, it stood as “not a good sign” that 2023 legalization would happen, as Addabbo put it last month. This came on the heels of Addabbo pointing out during a committee meeting that New York loses $4 billion each year without legal online casinos in the state.
Instead, that money goes toward other states with iGaming, such as New Jersey. Addabbo vividly remembers seeing the Garden State report its online casino revenue numbers, particularly during COVID.
“I saw it,” Addabbo said before raising his voice, “and I knew a portion of that is OUR MONEY. New York is going there. We’re losing $1 billion in my estimate. … We’re losing roughly a billion dollars a year from Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut and the illegal market. If you couple that with the $1 billion that we lose in revenue that we don’t do it, that’s a lot of money.
“I don’t know what governor likes to see a billion dollars leave their state to another state — or worse, an illegal market.”
Countdown is on for NY online casinos bill
Last month, after much anticipation, Addabbo introduced a bill to legalize online casinos in New York. The bill, S4856, is detailed and extensive. If nothing else, it will surely become a template for future efforts.
Along with an emphasis on responsible gambling, featured in the legislation by way of 13 measures each operator must meet, the bill carves out upward of 20 licenses for NY online casinos, including one each for the existing online sportsbooks as well as commercial casinos and Native American tribes.
Each licensed online casino in New York then receives authorization to offer the likes of slots, table and live dealer games.
Addabbo led a roundtable discussion on Tuesday to discuss specifics of potential legalization, including the pros and cons of the existing bill. This was the tactic Addabbo took a few years ago, which ultimately led to the legalization and launch of NY online sports betting.
“I thought that was a great bill because of the input given by those in the industry and the Native American tribes,” Addabbo said of the online sports betting legislation.
“Then we’ll see if there’s an appetite. … And it is being inclusive. That’s what provides New Yorkers with the best product that, really, they deserve. Hopefully this results in the best product.”