Union Remains Opposed to NY iGaming Bill, Even with $25M Fund

Union Remains Opposed to NY iGaming Bill, Even with $25M Fund
Fact Checked by Pat McLoone

Efforts to win labor’s support for a New York iGaming bill still have yet to succeed.

Bhav Tibrewal, the political director for the Hotel and Gaming Trades Council, told NYCasinos.com Wednesday that the union representing 40,000 hospitality and gaming workers in New York and northern New Jersey remains opposed to a bill filed late last week by state Sen. Joe Addabbo to legalize New York online casinos.

Addabbo refiled the bill Friday, tweaking the version he submitted last year after getting feedback from stakeholders and gaming proponents. That included the union, one of the more powerful labor organizations in the state.

One of the changes Addabbo made was the creation of a $25 million fund for union workers after the Trades Council voiced concerns that iGaming would threaten brick-and-mortar casinos and the jobs they create.

“This proposal, with a $25 million fund or not, does nothing but put downward pressure on the best thing that gambling has to offer in New York,” Tibrewal said. “It puts downward economic pressure on the creation of jobs. It squeezes potentially the numbers of existing jobs, and there’s no world where we can view there being anything but a negative impact on our members.”

State Still Working on Downstate Casinos

Addabbo, who chairs the Senate Committee on Racing, Gaming and Wagering, touted iGaming as a way for New York to address the multi-billion-dollar deficits threatening the state’s finances in upcoming fiscal years.

However, his online casino proposal comes after lawmakers approved New York mobile sports betting in 2021. A year later, lawmakers sought to expedite the process for awarding up to three casino licenses for the Downstate region.

The New York State Gaming Commission released the solicitation for those casino licenses a year ago. However, the process has stalled as the agency continues to respond to questions from prospective bidders. Once the state answers this round of questions, bidders will have 30 days to prepare their proposals.

Operators that win the three licenses will be required to employ union workers. The jobs those casinos are expected to produce will be “some of the best gaming jobs, frankly, in the world,” Tibrewal said.

He added that pushing an iGaming bill now would not be ideal while the Downstate casino bidding process continues.

Union Has Political Clout

Online casino gaming’s chances for passage were already low before the union’s affirmed its position. New York Gov. Kathy Hochul released her executive budget proposal on Tuesday, and it did not feature iGaming as a new revenue generator for the state.

When asked about Addabbo’s bill late last week, a spokesperson for the governor told NYCasinos.com she would review any legislation that lawmakers pass.

The Trades Council’s stance makes the quest to legalize iGaming harder in this session.

“The Hotel and Gaming Trades Council is communicating broadly with the legislature and the executive chamber to make our firm opposition known throughout the budget process,” Tibrewal said.

According to data from the New York State Board of Elections, the union has contributed more than $1.1 million to political candidates and committees since October 2020. That includes $73,700 to Hochul’s gubernatorial election campaign in December 2021 and $227,300 to the state Democratic Committee, the party that holds substantial majorities in both legislative chambers.

Major Operators Back Bill

That’s not to say there isn’t support for iGaming in Albany beyond Addabbo. Several senators  previously have voiced their support for online casinos in committee meetings, and representatives from the gaming industry are also making their voices known.

The Sports Betting Alliance has created a 30-second commercial and a website, BetOnNY.com, to promote its stance that New York iGaming would generate $1 billion in tax revenue. BetMGM NY, DraftKings, Fanatics and FanDuel belong to the alliance, which is working to promote legal sports betting and iGaming in all 50 states.

It, too, has donated to political candidates and committees. The Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee has received $150,000 from the group over the past two years, and it also gave $75,000 to the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee.

A representative from the SBA was not immediately available for comment. NYCasinos.com is on top of the news for iGaming and Downstate casinos, as well as providing information on future of NY online casino bonuses.

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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.