New York online casinos now have company. The New York Legislature won’t discuss legalizing online casino gambling until at least 2023. Now, Empire State gaming officials won’t decide on three new downstate commercial casino licenses until next year, either.
What the latter means for New York online casino legalization is unclear, but there’s a likely scenario.
The Future of New York Online Casinos
Before the legislature considers legalizing New York online casinos, they’ll probably want to see officials pick operators for the new retail casino licenses. So says the most outspoken gambling advocate among New York’s lawmakers, Sen. Joseph Addabbo, D-Queens.
Considering the New York State Gaming Commission (NYSGC) said on Oct. 4 that it won’t issue a request for applications (RFA) from potential retail casino operators until Jan. 6, 2023, it may even push online casino discussions into 2024.
That’s because two previous New York Gaming Facility Location Boards (NYGFLB) appointed by the NYSGC took an average of nine months to select winning operators.
By then, the opportunity to legalize New York online casinos during 2023 may expire. That’s because lawmakers approve the annual budget in April, which tends to contain bills ready for Gov. Kathy Hochul to sign. Shortly afterward, they adjourn for the year.
That unreached budget deadline is why the New York online casino bill Addabbo proposed failed this year.
After the 2022 bill stalled in committee, Addabbo told Bonus.com that lawmakers likely wanted to monitor the progress of New York online sports betting. That launched on Jan. 8.
Plus, legislators may want to establish a Problem Gambling Advisory Council (PGAC), as well as see who the NYGFLB picks for the new downstate retail casino licenses.
Gaming Commission Sets Expectations
On Oct. 3, the NYSGC unanimously approved the appointment of three of the five required members of the NYGFLB. The commission had to pick the majority of the board by Oct. 4.
Quenia Abreu, Vicki Been, and Stuart Rabinowitz will be among the eventual five board members making the siting decisions. (The commission told Bonus.com on Oct. 12 that there’s “no statutory deadline” for it to fill the last two seats.)
The commission felt the need to set expectations in its announcement about board appointments:
The process to establish up to three new commercial casinos in New York is just beginning: No determinations or licenses are expected to be issued until sometime later in 2023 at the earliest. [emphasis original]
New York Licenses Not Yet Awarded
It’s also pretty clear that the commission is getting tired of assumptions about the process, including beliefs that the new operators may already be givens.
For instance, on Sept. 22 at the East Coast Gaming Congress and NexGen Gaming Forum (ECGC) in Atlantic City, Bonus.com listened to Kevin Jones speak about how his casino likely would win one of the full licenses. Jones is the chief strategy and legal officer at Resorts World Casino and Genting Americas.
His company runs a retail casino in Queens named Resorts World New York. He believes Resorts and Empire City Casino in Yonkers, an MGM Resorts International property, will get two of the new licenses. Jones thought the third would be the one seeing competition.
However, NYSGC Chairman Brian O’Dwyer said during the Oct. 3 meeting:
This is indeed a tabula rasa.
In the meantime, a few aspects of the board’s decisions already have benchmarks.
Those retail casino operator requirements are noted on the site selection website that the commission announced on Oct. 4:
• The Board will determine the fee for a new license, which will be no less than $500 million
• The tax rate is at least 25% for slot gross gaming revenue and 10% for gross gaming revenue from all other sources.
New York’s Retail Casino Opportunity
O’Dwyer said on Oct. 3:
These tasks have the opportunity to transform. The casino licensing process has that possibility. With capital investment, direct and construction employment, and the driving of incremental tax revenues, these projects will offer the possibility of tangible change to their host locations.
It’s almost as though O’Dwyer could hear what panelists said yesterday during a Global Gaming Expo (G2E) session in Las Vegas.
Panelists agreed during the session Building Trends: Are Today’s Casinos Evolving Enough? that the current answer to that question is “no.”
So reports Lindsay Goldner, the founder of Milwaukee-based marketing consultancy Tillandsia Marketing. She’s attending the G2E session on behalf of her client, Catena Media, which owns Bonus.com.
Goldner related the following synopsis of the session:
Innovate, innovate, innovate – There are unique opportunities to solve problems and delight customers.
Panelists Steven Neely, GM, Rolling Hills Casino and Resort; David Rittvo, Principal, Tailored Hospitality Advisors; and Chris L. Creasey, Director, Tutor Perini, also found an “upside” to Covid-19.
The group was hopeful that the flexibility/fast acting response needed to come with Covid is now a part of the DNA and that it will help with evolution and adaptability moving forward.
There has been an increased consumer willingness to use technology, which has allowed for new tech implementation on properties. This helps with staffing issues and overall guest experience (think QR codes on tables to order, mobile check-in/virtual keys, etc.)
The panelists emphasized that all changes need to be customer-centric.
It’s important when casinos are building or revamping a space that they reach into their database to find out what guests want, rather than designing/developing in a vacuum as an executive team.
That said, Goldner heard takeaways that may benefit New York retail casino licensee hopefuls.
They may want to consider “multi-use space creation.” In other words, don’t just have convention space – maybe make that area easily converted to a bingo hall/event rental/slot tournament space. Or maybe have a restaurant serve more purposes – as a place to watch sports or dance in when it’s a nightclub.
Whether they listen to that advice or not, New York officials have a lot to consider during 2023.