A look through the proposed one-house budgets of both the New York Senate and Assembly released Monday showed something was missing – legal iGaming.
No mention of legal online casinos is found in either chamber’s FY 2024 budget proposal expected to come to a vote in the respective houses this week. NY Gov. Kathy Hochul also omitted iGaming from her executive budget proposal in January.
That could sound the death knell for any expansion of internet gambling in New York this year beyond the nine mobile sports betting operators that launched in Jan. 2022. But key lawmakers aren’t ready to count legalization out entirely as budget negotiations heat up this week.
Anything’s possible as lawmakers and Hochul try to fill budget gaps in the final hours before the state budget deadline, Senate Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee Chair Joe Addabbo told Gaming Today on Monday.
“I know it’s going to happen in New York. It’s not a question of if, but when. Either an initiative on the governor’s side or somebody on the Assembly side wants to start the initiative up again, I’d be more than happy to discuss it,” he said.
Addabbo Says ‘No Appetite’ For iGaming in NY Legislature
Addabbo was part of the 2021 budget negotiations that legalized mobile sports betting in New York. He is also a proponent of legal online casinos. An iGaming bill (S 4856) filed by Addabbo on Feb. 15 to legalize up to 20 casino apps would generate an estimated $475 million annually for the state budget – plus $150 million in licensing fees in the first year, according to the bill.
But there isn’t wide support for the proposal.
Concerns with how online casinos would impact brick-and-mortar casinos is one issue, even though Addabbo said the state’s seven commercial casinos would be eligible to have their own licensed apps. Another is a concern with problem gambling, which the Queens Democrat said his bill would address by funding $11 million in addiction treatment per year.
Addabbo told Gaming Today he is done advocating for online casinos in the FY 2024 budget.
“I’ve stopped talking about it because there’s no appetite,” he said. “It can’t be just me, I can’t be the only one shouting about it. There has to be an appetite for it.”
He isn’t sure his fellow lawmakers and Hochul have given up the idea entirely, however. The final hours of budget talks before April 1 might require last-minute funding streams that he says his online casinos will provide.
Budget Gaps Could Ignite iGaming Interest in New York
For Addabbo, a looming state budget gap is a concern. The nonpartisan Citizens Budget Commission reported that New York faces budget gaps of $7 billion to $9 billion a year in FY 2025 and 2026, culminating with a funding gap of $12 billion or more in FY 2027.
The larger gap in FY 2027 comes from the anticipated loss of $5 billion in revenue with the sunset of a personal income tax increase passed by the state in 2021.
“We are still going to need revenue. We have no federal dollars coming to us,” he told Gaming Today.
Online casinos would increase state funding by half a billion dollars beginning in 2025 at a time the state may need the money, said Addabbo. Or it could generate more. Mobile sports betting was expected to generate a couple hundred million dollars a year when it was legalized in FY 2022, he said. Instead, it generated over $700 million in state revenue in its first year.
Those reasons combined could bring iGaming into budget talks later this month, said Addabbo.
“As you get close to the April 1 date and you say, wow, we’re still $5 billion, $10 billion, whatever it is, off. We’re still needing revenue. That’s when people get creative,” he said.
Leaving iGaming out of the FY 2024 budget doesn’t mean it can’t be revisited for 2025. Addabbo’s S 4856 can be taken up later this year or as part of the FY 2025 budget process.
This story will be updated as more information is available.