New York Gov. Kathy Hochul has been good for her state’s gaming industry. It took only four weeks for the state’s online sportsbook operators to top the nation’s mobile sports betting market under Hochul’s leadership. Now some New Yorkers want to see what she can do for online casinos.
New York Senate Gaming Committee chair Joe Addabbo told Gaming Today in a post-election call he expects that Hochul will work with state lawmakers to legalize iGaming as part of New York’s $200 billion 2023 state budget during her first full term as governor.
On Tuesday, the Buffalo-born Hochul defeated Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin in the New York governor’s race. It is her first election to the post. She has served as governor since Aug. 2021, when she took over the office as Lt. Governor after then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo resigned amid sexual harassment allegations.
“I’m very happy for my team up in Albany because we get to work with an administration that has been very open policy-wise to gaming expansion in a very safe way,” Addabbo, who was re-elected Tuesday, said during Wednesday’s call. “Now our big push is trying to get iGaming as part of (Hochul’s) executive budget or certainly in the budget, given it will have a big fiscal impact there.”
Addabbo Hopes For Online Casino Launch by 2024
Hochul hasn’t been slow to embrace gaming expansion in the Empire State. She moved quickly to prepare New York for its 2022 mobile sports betting launch after taking office last August. This year, she worked with Addabbo and other state lawmakers to authorize licensing of three New York City-area commercial casinos through the one-year state budget process.
The three casinos could open sometime in 2023 depending on the pace of the bidding process. Permits for the three casinos are expected to be issued early next year.
Once operational, the downstate casinos could potentially offer online casino betting, depending on what legislative action is taken next year, says Addabbo. The Queens Democrat made it clear in a September interview with NY Sports Day that the first online casino apps approved in New York should go to commercial casinos (there are now four upstate – the three downstate casinos would make seven).
Of course, there is always the possibility that iGaming could launch before the downstate brick-and-mortar casinos open. New York will be looking for new revenue as federal stimulus aid from the pandemic is closed out. By some estimates, online casino revenue could bring in over $500 million annually. But nothing is final yet. Addabbo is keeping his eye on the big picture for now.
The Senator’s plan is to have the first legal online casino bet placed in New York by late 2023 or early 2024.
“We make the rational argument that New Yorkers are probably doing iGaming in an unsafe, unregulated way or going to another state and, once again, like mobile sports betting, we’re losing those dollars,” says Addabbo. “So we’re trying to make the rational argument that we should consider iGaming in New York for next year’s budget.”
NY Mobile Sports Betting Expansion? It Depends
Addabbo seems as intent on legalizing online casinos in 2023 as he was to legalize mobile sports betting in 2021. Like mobile sports betting, iGaming would be run off servers at commercial casinos, as required by a 2013 constitutional amendment.
Having all seven casinos up and running sometime in 2023 could mean more online apps, at least for online casino wagering. In 2022, Addabbo proposed a bill that would have authorized up to 14 online casinos in the state — or a maximum of two apps per commercial casino. He might push for that many or more in 2023.
The Senator says he wants New York to be competitive with New Jersey. That state has 21 online casinos so far.
As for mobile sports betting, Addabbo says he isn’t sure if more mobile sports apps are in New York’s future or not.
Right now, state revenue from mobile sports betting has exceeded or nearly exceeded the $500 million target set by state lawmakers when they legalized mobile sportsbooks in 2021. Adding more operators is a good idea if the market can sustain that push, the Senator says.
Then again, New York may decide that fixing something that isn’t broken is a bad idea.
With state budget negotiations still months away, state lawmakers have plenty of time to chat with Hochul about which direction the state should go.
“I will see what my conference looks like now, and as I talk to our new members I’ll look at the Assembly and have a conversation with (New York Assembly Gaming Chair) Gary Pretlow,” says Addabbo. “We’ll have this conversation about what benefits the state most.”