iGaming in New York is not a question of if, but when. It’s going to happen — just maybe not this year.Although New York lawmakers recently declined to add legislation to the state budget that would have allowed online poker and casino gaming in NY, the sponsor of the bill said reduced or expiring pandemic relief from the federal government is likely to make the proposal more fiscally attractive next year.
In a curious twist, the state Senate iced online poker and casino gaming this year but threw their support behind a proposal to expand the number of mobile sports betting licenses in NY to 16 by January 2024, up from nine currently. The move came despite reservations by some lawmakers to expand gaming before more hard data on sports betting is available.
In an exclusive interview with pokerfuse, Sen. Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) said those changing attitudes may signal that the necessary support would be there in 2023, but he conceded that he may have introduced his bill, S8412, a little too late in the legislative process this year — the budget must be approved by April 1, and negotiations between the state Assembly and Governor Kathy Hochul had already progressed.
“Remember, it took us two-and-a-half-years to do mobile sports betting in New York,” Addabbo said on Friday. “We threw legislation out there for iGaming in hopes of setting a foundation to build upon, part of which was the success of mobile sports betting in New York. [S8412] came a little too late in the sense that budget negotiations had already started.
“It takes a little while for New York to embrace gaming issues. In my opinion, iGaming in New York is not a question of if, but when. It’s going to happen — just maybe not this year.”
“We Will Be Ready” When More Online Gaming Revenue Needed
When the federal aid from Washington runs out and the state is looking for more revenue or educational funds next year, we will be ready with iGaming.Addabbo said economics would dictate how successful the push for expanded gaming in the Empire State will be. “Right now, there is no appetite for the additional revenue and educational funds. We have federal funds [for the pandemic] used in our budget so there’s a surplus. When the federal aid from Washington runs out and the state is looking for more revenue or educational funds next year, we will be ready with iGaming.”
But the possibility that the federal government would reduce or end pandemic relief in 2023 was another driving factor.
“Last year, we had to use the pandemic and the $15 billion deficit that it left in our state budget to really drive home the need for mobile sports betting,” Addabbo said, adding that then-Governor Andrew Cuomo “didn’t want to do it. But the money from Washington isn’t a birthday gift, we won’t get it every year, so we did mobile sports betting.
“I’m laying the groundwork for next year when we probably will not have, or can’t count on, the federal dollars and we need revenue. My hope is that iGaming will be at the ready to implement.”
Addabbo estimates that iGaming could bring about $475 million in annual tax revenue to New York.
Expanded iGaming Would Actually Help Problem Gamblers
If you really want to help someone with an addiction, you should safely regulate it in New York.While the Senate declined to add S8412 to this year’s budget resolution, it backed a separate proposal to have the state issue five additional mobile sports betting licenses by January 31, 2023, and another two by the same date in 2024 — for a total of 16. The decision seems paradoxical, given that the same lawmakers didn’t support expanding the other two verticals.
But Addabbo said he understands the Senate’s rationale.
“I could see where some would have a little apprehension and don’t want to expand gaming in New York so quickly. But New Yorkers are doing iGaming already — they’re doing it illegally or they’re going to another state.
“I make the argument with iGaming, as I did with mobile sports betting, that if you really want to help someone with an addiction, you should safely regulate it in New York. Then you can monitor their activity and you can help those that need help. Right now, you don’t know who they are so you can’t help them.”
Legislature “Doing Their Job” By Tweaking Sports Betting Legislation
We’re breaking records and doing phenomenally well with only eight active sportsbooksAddabbo lauded the Senate for supporting expanded sports betting. He pointed out that New York sports bettors broke the national record for handle at $1.6 billion in January — and that was with only four sportsbooks active from the get-go on January 8 — BetRivers, Caesars Sportsbook, DraftKings and FanDuel.
“We’re breaking records and doing phenomenally well with only eight active sportsbooks [today]. But we know other states have more, and this is an extremely competitive market that we’re in.”
Adding more sports betting licenses, he said, “shows that the legislature is not standing on the sideline saying ‘We did mobile sports betting, we’re done, it’s successful. Let’s just sit back and watch all the educational funds and the revenue roll in.’ No, *the legislature is doing their job by standing ready and asking ‘How can we make this a better product for New Yorkers? How can we make this even more successful?’*”
Addabbo added that he and his colleague Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow (D-Mount Vernon) have always envisioned that the state would offer more than the nine skins currently authorized. “We’ve always thought that more skins means more competition, which is a better product for New Yorkers.”
“This is all a starting point for negotiations, it’s not a done deal,” Addabbo said. “If the [Senate Finance Committee] tells me that expanding [mobile sports betting], at this point, will mean a reduction in educational funds or revenue, then we don’t go forward. But if they say the potential, based on what we see, raises revenue and educational funds if we do increase the number of skins, then let’s do it.”
What About NY Joining the MSIGA?
When asked if he thought New York would consider joining an interstate gaming compact — such as the one between Delaware, Nevada, and New Jersey as signatories of the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA) — Addabbo said, “We’ll see.”
“Once you’re in that arena of iGaming you can start to look at other products or areas. In the end, it has to make fiscal sense. We also need to protect the consumer. But we’re not there yet. I would really like to get it up and running in the state first and then see.”