Addabbo Addresses New York Online Gaming New Proposal

Addabbo Addresses New York Online Gaming New Proposal
Fact Checked by Jim Tomlin

Legislation authorizing New York online casinos, also known as iGaming, has been discussed for the past few years. But one of its most prominent supporters says he again hopes the measure can move forward when the state legislature convenes next year.

State Sen. Joseph Addabbo, the Queens Democrat who chairs the Senate Committee on Racing, Gaming and Wagering, told NYCasinos.com on Wednesday that he plans to introduce another bill for next year’s session that would allow New York to join eight states that have legalized online casino gaming.

New York lawmakers have tackled several gaming issues in recent years. In April 2021, they passed a budget that legalized online sports betting. That measure has already generated more than a billion dollars in tax revenue since the first apps rolled out in January 2022. Last year, legislators gave the green light to start the process of awarding three Class III casino licenses in or around New York City, with the selection process for those continuing into next year. Earlier this year, the legislature approved a $455 million loan to NYRA for wholesale renovations and upgrades at Belmont Park. When the work on the Long Island track is completed within the next three years, it will lead to the closing of Aqueduct and the redevelopment of more than 100 acres in Queens.

But even with all those high-profile projects and initiatives taking place in a relatively short time, Addabbo believes the time is right to bring up New York casino apps as well as online lottery gaming. He has filed similar bills in recent years. They were discussed, but they never gained much traction as they were not included in the state budget.

New York Faces Looming Budget Crunch

In July, New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli released a gloomy fiscal outlook that dramatically increased the state’s expected budget deficits through 2027. What was initially expected to be a $15.6 billion shortfall from the 2024-25 to 2026-27 fiscal years grew to $36.4 billion thanks to concerns about a weaker economy, uncertainty in the stock market and projected spending increases.

This isn’t the first time New York has stared down daunting budget deficits. In fact, pandemic-related deficits led then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo to change his mind and allow online sports betting – albeit based on his terms, to the operators’ chagrin. It’s also a subject that Addabbo said he has experience dealing with as a lawmaker.

Addabbo began his political career on the New York City Council in 2002 when the city was experiencing a financial downtown after 9/11. He became a state senator in 2009 during the throes of the Great Recession. One lesson he said lawmakers learned on both occasions was you can’t cut your way completely out of a multi-billion-dollar deficit.

“You can’t because it affects some real critical services,” Addabbo told NYCasinos. “So then, what do you do? You don’t want to raise taxes, and you look for revenue. I think the need for revenue in a bad budget will almost dictate that you have to at least consider iGaming and iLottery.”

Taxes from iGaming, including NY online slots, could top $1 billion annually. Addabbo notes there’s significant interest from New Yorkers who may cross state lines into Connecticut, New Jersey or Pennsylvania to play – or stay home and gamble through illegal offshore iGaming sites.

Getting Governor’s Support Is Key

Addabbo plans to unveil the bill in December. He said he hopes to have Assemblyman Gary Pretlow, the Mount Vernon Democrat who chairs the Assembly Committee on Racing and Wagering, to offer a sister bill in that chamber. But the main goal for Addabbo will be to get Gov. Kathy Hochul’s support in the executive budget that she proposes early next year, even if it’s just a line saying she wants to explore it for the next budget cycle.

While most gaming tax revenue has traditionally been slotted for education purposes, Addabbo noted that the decision to allocate some downstate casino tax money toward the Metropolitan Transportation Authority opens the door for new opportunities. That was a move Hochul pushed.

Those new opportunities could include the legalization of New York online poker and other popular table games available in neighboring states.

“We have unspoken-for money here with iGaming and iLottery because it’s a new product,” he said. “We have the flexibility now of talking about using this iGaming money for health care, transportation, education. It can be used for a myriad of things. Given that flexibility and given the status of our budgetary needs, I think, again, it's helpful to have this kind of discussion.”

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Author

Steve is an accomplished, award-winning reporter with more than 20 years of experience covering gaming, sports, politics and business. He has written for the Associated Press, Reuters, The Louisville Courier Journal, The Center Square and numerous other publications. Based in Louisville, Ky., Steve has covered the expansion of sports betting in the U.S. and other gaming matters.