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Assemblyman Sees New York Online Casino Passage As Tough Sell

Written By Matthew Kredell | Updated:
New York Assemblyman Gary Pretlow

Following New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s decision not to include online casino revenue in the executive budget, Assemblyman Gary Pretlow doesn’t have much hope for iGaming legalization in the Empire State this year.

“I don’t see it going in the budget this year,” Pretlow told PlayUSA. “More than likely, it won’t be in the Assembly one-house [budget]. It wouldn’t be for a lack of trying, that’s just how things shake out.”

With the governor’s reaction to online casinos thus far, Pretlow added that he’s not optimistic about iGaming passing next year either.

“It’s probably not happening in 2025 unless there is a serious budget shortfall. The powers that be on the second floor [executive offices, including the governor’s office] really aren’t gung ho on gaming. I don’t believe she’s a great fan of it right now. The last couple of governors weren’t fans of gaming. She needs to be convinced.”

Why not making the executive budget is hard to overcome

Hochul released her executive budget on Jan. 16. Lawmakers weren’t surprised not to see online casinos.

“I didn’t expect her to put it in this budget,” Pretlow said. “Even though there is a deficit, we are able to do the budget this year without raising taxes. If we had a serious budget crunch then this would have a lot more legs. Barring that, they don’t really think we need to do this now.”

Pretlow explained the difficulty of adding a large revenue-producing item when it does not start in the executive budget. The governor already proposed a balanced spending plan, so added revenue wouldn’t go toward filling a gap.

The Senate or House wouldn’t just propose iGaming and iLottery. They would have to figure out where to put the tax revenue for each. Pretlow explained:

“If we put it in our one-house, then we have to spend it. We’re not going to put it in the one-house to go into surplus. So what do we spend it on? Then that becomes the fight. Let’s say the Senate wants to spend it on a new football stadium for the Giants to move back to New York and the Assembly wants to do something else, it still doesn’t happen.”

That’s why big revenue additions such as sports betting or online casinos are only likely to occur in New York when the governor is on board entering the year. Previous Gov. Andrew Cuomo dismissed online sports betting legislation for years until deciding he wanted the revenue for his 2021-22 budget.

New York’s budget deficit is projected to grow to $9 billion for the 2025-26 fiscal year.

“There needs to be a budget gap, and maybe that’s in the cards for next year,” Pretlow said. “I play it one hand at a time.”

New York senator not giving up on iGaming push

New York Sen. Joe Addabbo introduced SB 8185 with online casino language while admitting any iGaming effort this year would take place through the budget. Pretlow told PlayUSA that he would file a companion bill in the Assembly and did so on Feb. 14, A9198. Each chairs the gaming committee in their respective chambers.

“Sen. Addabbo has been pushing this hard, and it makes sense for us to do it,” Pretlow said. “The numbers we have show that it can raise over a billion dollars in tax revenue for the state when fully implemented. And it would also enhance mobile sports betting, as it has in New Jersey and other states that do both.”

Addabbo previously expressed to PlayUSA that he did not intend to continue pushing for iGaming this year if no one else wanted it.

Particularly, he wouldn’t push for online casino’s inclusion in the Senate one-house budget if the governor and Assembly weren’t on board by March. However, Addabbo isn’t ready to quit based on the executive budget exclusion.

“I’m not done talking about it yet,” Addabbo said. “The state’s fiscal condition next year may dictate the need for significant revenue.”

Addabbo added that he will soon reveal 10 facts about iGaming that he hopes will help convince Hochul of the merits of legalizing New York online casinos.

Photo by Hans Pennink / AP Photo
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Matthew Kredell

Matthew Kredell serves as senior lead writer of legislative affairs involving online gambling at PlayUSA. He began covering efforts to legalize and regulate online gambling in 2007 after federal passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act disrupted his hobby of playing small-stakes online poker. He has since interviewed more than 300 lawmakers around the country and written extensively about online gambling legislation. He has led coverage of bills to legalize online gambling in most states. A lifelong Angeleno and USC journalism alum, Matthew started his career working as a sportswriter for a decade at the Los Angeles Daily News. He has written on a variety of topics for Playboy Magazine, Men’s Journal, Los Angeles magazine, LA Weekly and ESPN.com.

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