2022 Gubernatorial Races & Gambling: Two Northeastern Elections With Implications For The Future

Written By Derek Helling on May 18, 2022
Northeast And Their 2022 Gubernatorial Races Could Impact Gambling

In all but 14 states this November, voters will select their next governor. The winners of those 2022 gubernatorial elections will have a role in determining public policy in those states on a wide array of issues. In some states, that’s likely to include gambling.

This is the second of a four-part series that will look at the most important of those races for the future of gambling in the US. The first installment covers elections in the southern US.

2022 elections for governor in the northeast

Two states in the northeast part of the US seem to be on the verge of significant gambling expansion. That might not happen before the current governors’ terms end, though. In both the states, the impact of certain candidates winning the office this fall on gambling isn’t exactly clear right now.

Two of the states in the northeast region have legislatures currently considering gambling expansion. They also both will see voters go to the polls on the issue of the governor’s mansion in November.

In both cases, the current occupant of that residence has supported gambling during their time in office. In one of these races, though, that incumbent is about to leave office regardless of the result of November’s vote.

Massachusetts Governor spot will be open, with Baker leaving office next year

In Massachusetts, the current governor is Charlie Baker. He is coming up against his constitutional term limit. That’s a fact that could make gambling proponents in the state a little dismayed. Proponents in Massachusetts have been trying to legalize sports betting for years.

Republican Baker has been one of the most vocal proponents of sports betting legalization in the state during his two terms. He even proposed his own bill for doing so in 2019. Right now, it’s unclear exactly who the candidates will be in November’s general election.

The challengers in Massachusetts

Both parties will hold primaries to decide on candidates for the general election this summer. There are three candidates from Baker’s party and four contenders for the Democratic nomination currently. Two of the Democratic candidates, Sonia Chang-Díaz and Maura Healey, have recently stated positions on gambling expansion in the state publicly.

Healey stated that she wants to make sure “everybody is able to share in the benefits” of legalized sports betting in Massachusetts. Chang-Díaz stressed that while she is open to legalized wagering on sporting events, specifics of what the system will look like matter to her.

What’s at stake for gambling in Boston this fall?

None of the candidates have yet come out in opposition to expanded gambling in the state. But none of them seem as enthusiastic about making it happen as Baker has been.

For a state that has let this issue languish as a non-priority for years already, losing one of the most vocal advocates could only exacerbate that issue. Thus, more of the burden to press for activity could fall on members of the legislature.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul running in a crowded field

New York has been the center of a lot of news in the gambling industry lately. That’s centered on the legalization of online NY sports betting and a new timeline for brick-and-mortar casinos downstate. More expansion could be on the way, though.

Incumbent Kathy Hochul is finishing up what was Andrew Cuomo‘s third term. She will be among many in a Democratic primary seeking a first term of her own this fall. In her short time in office, she has overseen the greatest expansion of gaming in the state since New York first legalized commercial casino gaming in 2013.

So far, she has been non-committal about further gambling legislation, such as bills to legalize online casinos and online poker play. However, that also means she hasn’t been a staunch opponent of such changes.

The challengers in New York this fall

The field of primary candidates is currently crowded for both parties. Few of them have any recent public statements or activity on the issue of gambling in the state. New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams was active in pushing for policing of illegal gambling during his time on the New York City Council, but that was in 2013. Williams is among the Democratic primary candidates.

Republican candidate Harry Wilson recently expressed public support for legal sports betting in New York. However, he has not voiced any positions on any gambling outside of that scope. The same silence on the issue is true of the rest of the Republican field.

What’s at stake for gambling in Albany this fall?

It doesn’t appear that gambling will be an issue that voters will press candidates for answers on in this election. However, that doesn’t mean the winner of this race won’t have an impact on gaming.

To legalize iGaming this year or in the near future, proponents will need at least the consent of Hochul or whoever might replace her. For that reason, this race is important for gambling in New York despite that not being a hot-button issue.

Photo by Andrew Harnik / Associated Press
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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a lead writer for PlayUSA and the manager of BetHer. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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