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NY Bill Expediting Downstate Casino Licenses Faces Uphill Battle In Limited Time

Sen. Joe Addabbo’s bill to expedite downstate New York casino licenses is probably a long shot, as the legislative session ends June 6.

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Matthew Kredell Avatar
5 mins read

Legislation to expedite downstate New York casino licenses isn’t for show. But it’s probably also not for go.

Sen. Joe Addabbo told PlayUSA that, despite his late introduction of S9673, he plans to push to get the bill done before the New York legislature adjourns June 6.

“I hope it’s realistic. This is not for show. I don’t want it to be for show. Some of my colleagues have asked why we haven’t realized at least the licensing fees. Hopefully, we can do this. The gaming commission could hold onto these licenses for years and that would be OK because there’s no timeline. So let’s give them a timeline.”

Addabbo’s bill provides the New York State Gaming Commission with a March 31 deadline to award up to three casino licenses in and around New York City. March 31 marks the end of the state’s fiscal year.

Legislators should be mad at downstate casino licensing delays

In 2022, legislators and Gov. Kathy Hochul included in the state budget language to expedite downstate casino licenses, lifting a 2023 moratorium a year early.

However, the New York State Gaming Commission has indicated it might not award the licenses until the end of 2025 or later.

“It’s just not consistent with the intent of the legislature,” Addabbo said. “When we voted to expedite this by one year, no one in their wildest dreams thought we would be waiting another three, four, five years. These three licenses have been sitting on a shelf, collecting dust, not creating construction jobs and billions of revenue. It’s wrong and there’s no rational reason why.”

Addabbo said he introduced the bill now because he was told the gaming commission would begin the license application process by the end of last year. Then he heard it would happen in January, then the first quarter.

When the gaming commission warned of a later time frame last month, Addabbo felt the need to take legislative action. The bill requires the commission to begin taking applications by July 31.

The NYSGC is in a place where it could begin taking applications at any time. It has been waiting for prospective bidders to work out complicated land-use zoning issues and environmental studies.

Addabbo said he had not discussed the bill with the New York State Gaming Commission.

“Hopefully it will spur a conversation. At every step along the way for the downstate license, we tried to work with them. People got to start asking the question why. If it’s a land-use issue, let’s get the process started while we work on the land-use issue.”

Addabbo’s bill allows winning bidders two years following licensing to work out land-use issues.

Downstate casino licensing impact on New York online casinos

Bhav Tibrewal, political director for the New York Hotel and Gaming Trades Council, told PlayUSA in January that the union was more opposed to legalizing online casinos while the downstate casino process was ongoing.

So Addabbo sees expediting the downstate casinos as a positive step for future New York online casino legalization.

“For those who are out there saying we can’t even discuss iGaming until the downstate licenses are done, this will help a little bit. But I would still push for iGaming even before awarding the downstate licenses. The iGaming actually makes downstate licenses even greater because if the license gives access to iGaming, that increases its value.”

A month ago, Addabbo told PlayUSA he hoped to get a conversation with Hotel Trades Council President Rich Maroko on iGaming before the end of the session.

As the session nears an end, Addabbo said that conversation still hasn’t happened. However, he wants to try to get with Maroko one more time to discuss expediting the downstate casinos, something the union should support. And that could lead into a conversation about iCasino.

“I would hope that Hotel Trades would be on the same page with this bill because they want these union jobs post-construction. This could be an icebreaker with them.”

Addabbo hopes to get ugly with gaming bills

Asm. Gary Pretlow introduced companion bill A10338 in the New York Assembly.

Addabbo doesn’t see why any legislator wouldn’t support legislation that clarifies their previous intent.

“All we’re doing is expediting the process by putting in the time frames. What would be the argument against doing something they already voted on? I would hope there would be no opponents. As a legislator, you have to be frustrated to vote to expedite something by one year and not see it happen for another three, four, five years.”

However, passing legislation is never easy. Sources tell PlayUSA that some stakeholders might oppose the legislation because they want more time to work out issues with their bid.

Since it’s late in the session, Addabbo said his Senate Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee won’t meet again to move on the bill.

Each year, the final omnibus package is called the “big ugly.” That’s where Addabbo hopes to get all of his outstanding gaming bills this year, particularly the downstate license expediting, changes to fantasy sports and putting 1% of online sports betting revenue to addressing problem gaming and another 1% to youth sports.

“They call it the big ugly at the end because it has everything in it. It’s a big, ugly bill. I’m not totally optimistic about getting this in there but I’ve seen things happen before.”

Even if legislators wanted to include the bill to expedite downstate casino licenses, the governor isn’t likely to approve it. Hochul, at least thus far, has trusted her gaming commission to do what’s best on the downstate casinos.

“If there is no support from the governor’s administration for this bill, I believe the media needs to start asking why there is such a delay,” Addabbo said. “We did four casinos back in 2013-14 in a fraction of the time we can’t even do three right now. That’s embarrassing. If the governor really wants to show an efficient administration, one that’s proactive in creating jobs and billions of dollars in revenue for education and the MTA, I would think she would support this.”

If none of his gaming bills get into the big ugly, Addabbo will continue the push next year.

“We introduced the bill and highlighted the need to do this. If the bill doesn’t move, you got to ask why. We push as much as we can. If not, we try for next year’s budget.”

Matthew Kredell Avatar
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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 and his since interviewed over 300 lawmakers around the country.

View all posts by 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 and his since interviewed over 300 lawmakers around the country.

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