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NYC Casino Workers Express Dismay To Addabbo Over Online Casino Bill Support

Written By Matthew Kredell on February 20, 2024
Resorts World Casino New York City

More than 700 Resorts World New York City employees signed a letter asking New York Sen. Joe Addabbo to cease campaigning for legalizing online casinos.

With Resorts World at Aqueduct located just outside Addabbo’s district, many of the 703 employees who signed the letter likely are among his constituents.

Written on Hotel and Gaming Trades Council letterhead, the letter expressed the workers’ dismay at Addabbo’s sponsorship and support for legislation to regulate New York online casino apps.

“As the chair of the committee that’s responsible for regulating, protecting and growing New York’s gaming industry, we find it appalling that you are pushing legislation that would hurt workers like us and our industry in order to benefit a handful of companies who are seeking massive profits at our expense.”

The New York Post first reported on the letter Sunday.

Union opposition no surprise to Addabbo

Dating back to last year, Addabbo said union opposition was the biggest obstacle facing New York iGaming legislation.

He tried to appease the union by adding a $25 million fund for casino workers to this year’s bill, SB 8185.

Bhav Tibrewal, political director for Hotel Trades Council, told PlayUSA the fund was “putting bells and whistles on a job killer.”

In the letter Tibrewal provided to PlayUSA along with the signatures, casino workers said Addabbo had heard from the union, and now it was time he heard from them directly.

“You have repeatedly stated that interactive gaming would not hurt workers, but we know our industry, and we know our customers. When customers come to a racino, VLT parlor, or casino, they support all of our jobs, including cooks, bartenders, servers, maintenance workers, and hotel workers. We know that if, instead, they were to game from their homes, workplaces, or elsewhere, their dollars would go straight into the pockets of gaming companies, rather than to support the livelihoods of thousands of New Yorkers who support the state’s gaming industry.”

Addabbo’s legislation would set up Resorts World to have an online casino license. And it would create new jobs in New York with live dealers.

In making changes to his bill last month, Addabbo asked the union to let him know what he could add to help casino workers.

“If someone says nice try but $25 million doesn’t cut it, what does cut it?” Addabbo said then. “Is it $30 million? $40 million? It’s not enough to just say no. Give me an alternative. Give me a suggestion. What don’t you like about it? Tell me what you would want and let me see if it’s possible.”

Addabbo not finding help in New York online casino push

When introducing his bill, Addabbo said he wouldn’t continue his campaign for iGaming this year if he is doing it alone. This means his effort probably won’t last much longer regardless of the letter.

So far, only Asm. Gary Pretlow has joined him. However, while Pretlow filed companion legislation AB 9198, he’s not really active in his support. Pretlow told PlayUSA that New York online casino wasn’t happening until there was a serious budget shortfall.

Facing a mild budget shortfall this year, Gov. Kathy Hochul did not include online casino in the executive budget. If the New York Senate doesn’t include online casino in its budget proposal next month, that will be the end of the effort for 2024.

Addabbo previously told PlayUSA that the state could eventually end up legalizing online casino without union support.

“We may find ourselves in a situation where, out of necessity, Hotel Trades is saying no, no, no, but the state does it anyway,” Addabbo said. “It could be because of financial need, because another pandemic hits, or the fact that we’re surrounded by other states with iGaming and the lost money gets to the governor.”

Such ideas don’t sit well with casino workers, who concluded the letter:

“We understand that you are facing a lobbying campaign from interests who stand to make a lot of money from interactive gaming, but we think you should, prioritize the well-being of New York’s gaming workers over those interests. As gaming workers, we have been proud to support you as a senator in the region for many years. We ask that you support us by ceasing your campaign for interactive gaming, which will drain revenues from brick-and-mortar gaming facilities and put us out of work.”

Asked by PlayUSA if the Resorts World workers’ letter changes anything regarding his push for legalizing iGaming, Addabbo responded:

“The advancement of iGaming always needed more than any one or two legislators pushing it. It needed the governor’s embracing of it, a fiscal need for it, the desire to create/protect jobs or an appetite to help people with an iGaming addiction/problem.”

Photo by Kathy Kmonicek/AP file photo
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Written 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 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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