Addabbo: New York iGaming Legislation Could Pass in 2024, But Hopes Hinge on Hochul

New York Sen. Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. told Bonus on June 25 that lawmakers may discuss legalizing online casinos if the legislature holds a special session. However, he said, all iGaming hopes hinge on Gov. Kathleen C. Hochul.

Scuttlebutt is that the New York State Legislature, which adjourned on June 7, may reconvene for a special session. The talk is that Hochul’s June 5 pause on congestion pricing created a $1 billion hole in funding for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).

Lawmakers may seek a new way to generate at least that much revenue. One possibility is legalizing online casinos in New York.

Addabbo says legal iGaming could generate $1 billion yearly for New York — not just in 2025, which is the immediate MTA shortfall.

A “dire” need, like protecting public transit, could spur change, Addabbo told Bonus.

I’ve been around long enough … I’m of the belief that anything can materialize out of a need.

Addabbo spoke to Bonus while helping others out during the Tuesday primary. The Woodhaven Democrat is unopposed until the general election in November.

He said legal New York online casinos would create sustainable, continued funding for MTA.

The state already allows mobile sports betting. Legalizing New York online casinos could mean that online gambling operators like BetMGM may have BetMGM Casino join the already operating BetMGM Sportsbook. New York’s other eight sportsbooks could do the same, adding their online casino brands to their apps.

Special Sessions Are Rare

State Senate records show special sessions dating back to 2016. Most recently, lawmakers met in 2022 about a legislative pay raise. A previous special session covered evictions, and two before that regarded public transportation.

However, lawmakers haven’t yet placed a special session on the 2024 calendar.

Addabbo said before that happens, lawmakers need to “orchestrate” an agenda and set a meeting date.

If they do, he thinks iGaming may be on the agenda:

It is within our grasp.

His New York online casino, poker, and iLottery bill — SB8185 — could be approved in a special session.

However, Addabbo sees the step after that as a challenge. Hochul’s signature is what transforms a bill into a law.

He said to Bonus:

The governor has to want to do this.

It’s always governor-driven. Legislatures can’t do it on their own. It’s a partnership.

Obstacle? Hochul’s Take on Union Opposition

Addabbo believes before there’s any movement on iGaming legalization, Hochul will have to be willing to discuss the New York Hotel Trades Council (HTC).

Without a dialogue regarding her usual support of union stances, Addabbo thinks iGaming is unlikely to pass in 2024.

Until we get serious, I’m going to say ‘not likely.’

The large union ensured lawmakers knew it was against SB8185.

HTC Political Director Bhav Tibrewal has told Bonus his union is unequivocally opposed to iGaming. He claims online casinos will cannibalize revenue from land-based casinos, which will cost the union’s casino worker members their jobs.

Addabbo believes the opposite — that online casinos won’t result in revenue or job loss at land-based casinos. He adds that online casinos will create jobs for New Yorkers — like careers as live dealers for online casino vendors, including Evolution (Evolution AB (publ) 4,72 +2,61%).

However, Hochul’s signature is what’s ultimately required to enact SB8185.

Last But Not Least, Downstate Licenses

MTA funding could also come in the form of $2.75 billion to $3 billion in revenue from application and license fees for three new commercial casinos. Addabbo said the bill the legislature approved to accelerate the licensing process could help bring that money in faster.

Then, the casino revenue can sustain MTA funding.

Addabbo said:

I think it’s still important.

Bringing billions into state coffers in 2025 matters, he believes.

The licensing process that would generate that revenue had been stalled since October 2023.

Legislators passed a bill to accelerate that process. New York lawmakers approved SB9673 on June 7, but records show the bill hasn’t yet been delivered to Hochul or signed by the governor.

Addabbo emphasized to Bonus:

It’s not codified.

The New York State Gaming Commission (NYSGC) noticed the same thing during its June 24 meeting. NYSGC Executive Director Robert Williams notified the body that Hochul hadn’t acted on SB9673. However, the commission would follow her guidance once she makes a decision.

Meanwhile, the siting board appointed by the commission to oversee the licensing process is having its first meeting since Jan. 3, 2023.

Beginning at 2:30 p.m. on June 27, the New York State Gaming Facility Location Board (NYSGFLB) will discuss license application deadlines, fees, and how much would-be casino developers are willing to spend on their projects.

The meeting in the 6th Floor Conference Room at 317 Lenox Avenue in Harlem is nice, but licensing process deadlines should be “in statute,” Addabbo believes.

If Hochul doesn’t sign SB8185 and SB9673 into law, Addabbo tells Bonus he would want to know her reasons.

The question should be asked, ‘Why?’

Why wouldn’t you do it?

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