When examining research, it’s important to include looking at who funded the research and how it was conducted to determine the value of the data the research produces. Such inspection is crucial regarding a recent survey about New Yorkers’ support for further gambling expansion.
The survey touts some support among respondents for legalizing online casino games and online lottery ticket sales. The details of the survey quickly bring that data into question, however.
What the survey says about support for New York online casinos
The Parkside Group LLC recently summarized its poll of 800 New Yorkers from October 2023, stating that “voters support increasing gaming revenue to tackle the deficit but not tax hikes or spending cuts.” In addition, the poll states that “a clear majority of New Yorkers prefer increased gaming revenue to tax hikes.”
Regarding that last claim, the Parkside Group states that “a majority of every single demographic and political sub-group said New York should expand gaming before raising taxes.” That could be good news for state legislators who have been pushing to legalize real-money online casinos in New York.
In 2023, members of both chambers of the New York legislature tried to insert language into the state budget bill that would have created a regulated system for online casino play. Those proposed amendments did not make it into the budget’s final version, however.
Standalone legislation may address that topic again in 2024. However, proponents of online casino legalization shouldn’t read much into this survey. A closer inspection reveals flaws in its methodology.
Ruining a good story with facts
According to the Parkside Group’s summary of its poll, the premise of legalizing online casino games was juxtaposed against the state either raising income taxes or cutting services to residents in the face of a budget deficit. That raises significant questions about the data’s legitimacy.
To begin with, New York’s budget deficit for the current fiscal year is half of what it was projected to be, coming in at $4.3 billion. While $4.3 billion is an astronomical sum for most people living in New York regarding their household budgets, it isn’t anywhere near as significant for the state of New York’s budget.
In fact, $4.3 billion represents 1.7% of New York’s $229 billion budget for FY2024. These facts blow a huge hole in the narrative that New York is facing a daunting budget deficit that it must take drastic action to address.
Furthermore, there is no broad support in the state legislature for either cutting services or raising taxes simply to address that 1.7% budget shortfall. New York is among states that are considering a wealth tax but that would only apply to the top 5% of earners in New York.
Also, legalizing online casino games alone wouldn’t address all of that 1.7% budget deficit. That cause’s most audible supporter, New York Sen. Joseph Addabbo, estimates that online casino play would create $425 million in tax revenue for the state in its first year or less than 10% of the current deficit amount. Addabbo estimated that impact would rise to $725 million in its fifth year.
That brings up perhaps the greatest flaw of this survey. The question suggests a zero-sum game that simply doesn’t exist. Everything becomes obvious about why the Parkside Group conducted the survey like it did when you look at the funding source.
Following the money never fails
The biggest problem with the narrative that the Parkside Group spun for survey participants is that New York doesn’t have to choose between expanding gambling or other measures to address its 1.7% budget deficit. It can do both or neither.
Even if New York someday legalizes online casino games, addressing a budget deficit may not be the motivation. Additionally, the state may simultaneously enact a wealth tax that some in the state legislature are pushing for.
Moreover, you could probably ask most people whether they would like to see the state do a number of things or raise their taxes and most people would probably prefer the alternative to paying more taxes. A survey boasting that New Yorkers would rather make Chicago deep dish-style pizza the official state pizza than see their taxes go up would have the same amount of legitimacy.
The aim of this survey, to show that New Yorkers support legalizing online casino play, was transparent. As far as why, the Parkside Group is also transparent about that. The Sports Betting Alliance commissioned the survey.
Among the Sports Betting Alliance’s members are several online gambling companies that could be among the biggest beneficiaries of New York online casinos. This research was conducted for one purpose: to give the Sports Betting Alliance some data it can use in conversations with state officials.
In that way, the Sports Betting Alliance got what it paid for. Hopefully, New York legislators will scrutinize this data when the Sports Betting Alliance brings it to them. Even a cursory inspection shows its flaws.