State Sen. Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. told Bonus on Feb. 2 that he received input about his New York iGaming and iLottery bill. So, he changed SB8185 and refiled the amended online casino, poker, and iLottery measure on Feb. 1.
Addabbo, D-Woodhaven, originally introduced the bill on Jan. 11.
He said to Bonus on Feb. 2 that he’d always believed the proposed legislation might change based on discussions with stakeholders.
You introduce a bill just to see the kind of response you get.
He said he’s optimistic about SB8185’s future. Addabbo said so despite opposition from the Hotel and Gaming Trades Council (HTC) retail casino workers union and no word from Gov. Kathleen C. Hochul about when she’ll meet with him. If lawmakers pass the New York iGaming and iLottery bill, Hochul must sign it for it to become law.
New York iGaming and iLottery Bill Changes
The 11-page-long bill is almost entirely underlined green text, with a few paragraphs in the original black font. Addabbo outlined what he believes are the most notable changes.
Some language remains the same. New York online casino and poker operators would be taxed at 30.5% of gross gaming revenue (GGR).
SB8185’s “fiscal implications” attached to the bill also still say New York will receive $1 billion in annual tax revenue “based upon conservative market estimates.”
However, Addabbo changed aspects of the proposed legislation, including shortening the timeframe of the iGaming license application process from 180 days to 120 days.
While that change was Addabbo’s idea, he told Bonus that another came at the behest of the video lottery terminal (VLT) operators like Finger Lakes Gaming and Racetrack in Farmington.
Addabbo told Bonus that VLT operators with racetracks recently asked him:
You didn’t mean to exclude us, did you?
So, he added VLT facilities to the entities that were able to apply for licenses. SB8185 says VLT facilities, “resort” casinos, tribes with state gaming compacts, and mobile sportsbook operators can seek license approval from the New York State Gaming Commission (NYSGC) if the bill becomes law.
Addabbo told Bonus:
We added language about tournaments in other states.
Online poker players especially look out for that language in proposed legislation because states that also apply to join the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA) allow players across states to enter the same game. For example, PokerStars gamblers from Michigan and New Jersey saw interstate play launch on Jan. 1, 2023
Opposition to SB8185
It is New York, Addabbo emphasizes to Bonus on Feb. 2.
So he believes HTC’s objection based on the NYSGC being mid-process in awarding three new commercial casino licenses to downstate gaming facility applicants is ignoring a basic fact.
Addabbo told Bonus:
I have full faith in the gaming commission. … This is New York State. We can multitask.
However, he’s powerless for now to get HTC to the table for face-to-face negotiations. In a separate interview with PlayUSA (another Catena Media publication), he said that will have to wait until Gov. Hochul is on board:
That’s the governor’s job to get Hotel Trades to the table. The governor has to drive the bus, bring everyone in and say how do we go down this path.
Addabbo said that if SB8185 becomes law in 2024, the NYSGC can ensure New York online casino, poker, and iLottery can launch in 2025.
That would then address the HTC’s opposition based on cannibalization fears, he said.
On Jan. 18, HTC Political Director Bhav Tibrewal told Bonus that legalizing online casino and poker gambling would result in HTC workers losing their jobs because the casinos would lose revenue.
The live dealer studios that would be built in New York to serve the online casino operators will need about 1,200 croupiers and studio hands. Those are new union jobs, Addabbo said to Bonus.
Bonus also saw the bill still includes $25 million a year for union employee training.
Meanwhile, Addabbo thinks it’s optimistic that the retail casinos will hire staffers anytime soon.
Bonus checked on Feb. 2, and the body the NYSGC appointed to oversee the licensee recommendations hasn’t yet requested license applications. That means no downstate retail casino license hopefuls have yet been able to apply.
Addabbo said because of the delays, the HTC may not see new members from the downstate retail casinos as quickly as they would from iGaming legalization. Depending on which entities receive licenses, building commercial casinos “from scratch” may take two or three years.
Addabbo’s Committee May Not Hear SB8185
Addabbo is the chairman of the Senate Racing, Gaming, and Wagering Committee. That’s where SB8185 sits.
He told Bonus the committee’s upcoming public hearing is happening this month. However, it probably won’t “entertain iGaming.”
Addabbo told Bonus the reason:
I want iGaming and iLottery to be part of the budget process.
So far, the New York iGaming and iLottery bill wasn’t included in the executive budget Hochul published in January.
Legislators pass the final budget in April, which is where Addabbo hopes SB8185 will land.
However, if the bill doesn’t make it into the April budget, Addabbo told Bonus he may hold a public hearing on SB8185 if the budget ends up short of funds.
So, while he hasn’t talked to Hochul about the New York iGaming and iLottery bill, Addabbo told Bonus:
I understand it has been brought to her attention.
He said he hopes the governor is logical about SB8185 and sees that New York needs it so the state doesn’t need to increase taxes or cut services.
New York iGaming and iLottery Bill Visibility
Tibrewal told Bonus his union ensured all state lawmakers knew the organization opposed legalizing iGaming.
Meanwhile, on Jan. 2, a group representing online gambling operators began a marketing campaign called Bet on NY. A commercial directed pro-iGaming viewers to the campaign website, where a form popped up urging them to contact their elected officials about legalizing online casino and poker gambling.
Addabbo, the most vocal pro-iGaming lawmaker, told Bonus on Feb. 2 that his office hasn’t received any of those constituent emails via Bet on NY:
I have not, no.
So, Addabbo said, the newsletter his office emails to 3,000 opted-in constituents will talk about it:
One of the issues I’ve chosen is iGaming.
The topic will include a reader poll, he said.
Addabbo told Bonus he believes the majority of his constituents want iGaming legalized in New York.