New York online casino legislation is at the starting line. Whether it ever gets off the blocks could be decided as early as Tuesday.
That’s when New York Gov. Kathy Hochul is expected to deliver her executive budget to the General Assembly.
New York Sen. Joe Addabbo filed SB 8185 on Thursday, his third year introducing a bill to authorize online interactive gaming.
“We’ll see next week,” Addabbo said. “Without the governor embracing this, we’re not going to do it. I won’t even advocate for it to be in the Senate One House if the governor won’t embrace it.”
Governor support for NY iGaming appears unlikely in 2024
Addabbo acknowledged that he has heard the governor isn’t interested in online casino this year because she wants to wait until the state finishes awarding three downstate casino licenses.
Politics have delayed the process, and now it doesn’t look like the state will award licenses this year. Resolving local zoning regulations could delay downtown licenses multiple years.
“If people want to wait until we do downstate licenses, which now they’re talking might not be until 2025 or 2026, I’ll be quick to point out the money the state lost,” Addabbo said. “By 2027, we would have lost over $3 billion to other states and an illegal market.”
Addabbo stated that iGaming this session will be done in the 2024-25 fiscal budget or not at all. He clarified that he won’t give up right away if Hochul doesn’t include New York online casino in the executive budget. He plans to put together 10 facts for why New York should do iGaming in the budget and present it to the governor.
But if Hochul shuts him down or does not support online casino by March, he won’t bother pushing for its inclusion in the Senate budget proposal.
“That she’s not on board Jan. 16 doesn’t mean she won’t be on board in March,” Addabbo said. “The states that have iGaming do so because the governor of the state wanted it. It’s really a governor’s game here. If she wants to help people with addiction, stop the flow of a billion dollars a year out of the state and raise revenue for the budget, here’s her opportunity.”
NY online casino revenue not sorely needed
Another reason Hochul might not include online casino in her executive budget is that she isn’t searching for revenue to fill budget holes the way people might have thought a few months ago.
New York’s financial situation isn’t quite as dire as it once appeared. An Assembly source said the money from iGaming and iLottery isn’t a driving force this year.
At one point, the state was projected to have a $9 billion deficit. Although the final numbers will come out next week, it’s now projected to be around $4 billion. The state likely can handle the budget deficit without cutting important services or raising taxes.
“Regardless of the fiscal situation of the state, there are other reasons to do this than just fiscally,” Addabbo said. “There are people in New York gambling online now in an unsafe environment. This bill will give them protections and support.”
Senator says iGaming could help downstate casino deal
Addabbo doesn’t understand why New York should finish the downstate casino licenses before doing online casino.
He’s heard the argument that the downstate casinos will bring tens of billions of dollars to the state, and so they need to be the focus. But he thinks it could be better to get online casino legislation done first, or simultaneously, because casino companies want iGaming.
“I think it would increase the value of the downstate licenses if we linked them to iGaming now,” Addabbo said. “That could bring the state a higher licensing fee.”
Addabbo also trusts the New York State Gaming Commission can handle two issues at once.
“This is New York, so of course we can multitask,” Addabbo said. “These are two separate products. The bottom line is it’s three licenses.”
Details of NY online casino legislation
Most of the language in SB 8185 is identical to the New York online casino bill from last year.
Addabbo previously detailed the two key changes in the bill to PlayUSA. One, he added iLottery to bring additional revenue to the state. At market maturity, he believes iGaming and iLottery will combine for $1 billion in annual state revenue.
Secondly, the bill directs a minimum of $25 million a year to a fund that the New York Hotel & Gaming Trades Council can use to ensure that online casino is not negatively affecting employees of brick-and-mortar facilities. Bill language indicates the money goes toward employee training, responsible gaming training and education, health and development.
Other key details that carried over from last year:
- 30.5% tax rate.
- Mobile interactive gaming licenses cost $2 million for 10 years for existing licensed New York gaming operators. Independent operators must pay $10 million.
- Potential for up to 31 licenses: four upstate casinos, three future downstate casinos, three Indian tribes, nine VLT racinos, nine online sportsbooks, three competitive bids with minority participation.
- Allows one skin per licensee.
- Increases jobs in New York with live dealer games that must be conducted in the state.
- $11 million annually for the purposes of problem gambling education and treatment.
“I’m not going to be the only one talking about this or advocating for it,” Addabbo said. “iGaming and iLottery are going to happen in New York eventually. If you want to realize the money next year, you’ve got to vote on it this year.”