Survey: New Yorkers See iGaming As Tax Hike, Budget Cut Alternative

Survey: New Yorkers See iGaming As Tax Hike, Budget Cut Alternative
Fact Checked by Jim Tomlin

A poll taken last month shows that most New Yorkers favor expanding mobile gaming options in the state – including New York online casinos – and that they see it as a viable method to help address the multi-billion-dollar state budget deficits projected for the next few years.

The Parkside Group conducted a telephone survey of 800 registered voters for the Sports Betting Alliance. A memo obtained by NYCasinos.com indicated 51% backed efforts to legalize New York online casinos, also known as iGaming, and only 40% opposed. The memo did not give a complete breakdown by subgroups, bit it noted that “nearly” all of the demographic and political categories support legalization. The strongest support for the state adding legalized, regulated NY casino apps came from independent voters (57% to 35%) and adults 35 and younger (59-36).

The results come as Senate Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee Chair Joseph Addabbo, D-Queens, prepares to release his iGaming bill for the 2024 New York Legislature session starting in January. It also comes as the state anticipates a budget shortfall of more than $4 billion for the next fiscal year, which starts in April. Forecasts also predict larger deficits in the out years.

New York iGaming A Unique Proposition

Voters were also asked about their concern for the deficit, with 40% ranking their worries at a 10 on a 1-10 scale. Majorities also said they did not want to see personal income taxes raised (85%) or see spending cuts (82%). Even increasing business taxes were opposed by 61% of those surveyed. Advocates see iGaming, including potentially NY online slots, as a way to raise more tax money to alleviate deficits.

Howard Glaser, the global head of government affairs and legislative counsel for casino game developer Light & Wonder, said the results show voters strongly disapprove hiking taxes or slashing programs like healthcare and education. The former New York state official added that the gaming industry will go to Albany with a unique pitch to lawmakers.

Legislators “have very few good options to close the revenue gap,” Glaser said. “There aren’t any other businesses coming to the legislature and spending their time and energy asking to be taxed. That doesn’t happen. Every other industry is trying to avoid being the one that gets hit with a tax increase.”

Legalizing New York online operators, who likely would offer New York online casino bonuses for customers, would likely generate hundreds of millions, potentially up to $1 billion, in annual tax revenue. Additional millions would be generated from licensing fees.

Glaser: iGaming Complements Brick-And-Mortar

Gaming legislation has been front and center in New York in recent legislative sessions. Online sports betting passed in 2021, and a year later, lawmakers expedited the process to award up to three casino licenses for downstate sites.

Glaser told NYCasinos that “forward thinking” bidders for the casino licenses should consider adding an iGaming provision to their contracts because it would provide a way for them to start recouping the massive investments they will make if awarded a license. The downstate licenses are expected to fetch at least $500 million each, and the developers must spend at least that much on their projects. However, several have already pledged to spend billions on their casino resorts.

Studies in other iGaming states have shown that the online product does not undercut revenue or handle (amount wagered) at brick-and-mortar casinos. Still, some have raised concerns about potential job losses or reduced revenue if NY online poker and other forms of iGaming were introduced.

Glaser said the gaming business is no different than other forms of entertainment.

“People want the experience of live entertainment, and they also want to be able to enjoy it in their own home or on their phone,” he said. “That model works extremely well. If someone said to Taylor Swift, ‘You can do a lot of concerts, but you can’t stream. Because once you stream, people won’t come to your concerts.’ People in the music industry would look at you like you have two heads.”

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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.