Downstate NY Casino License Delays Could Mean No iGaming Until 2026 at Earliest

Establishing a new casino resort is rarely quick, but the New York downstate licensing process has been positively glacial—and worse, it’s holding up other gambling expansion efforts. In the latest update, the New York State Gaming Commission (NYSGC) said it might not issue licenses until late 2025. That’s a problem for Sen. Joe Addabbo and his allies in the New York online casino effort because he has said Gov. Kathy Hochul won’t consider the possibility until the retail casino licenses have been sorted out.

Regarding the latest delays, the NYSGC says more time is needed for steps like zoning and environmental reviews.

The news represents a major setback for many, including Sen. Addabbo and his fellow online casino proponents. Initially, there was some hope that the state would have selected winning applicants sometime in 2023. However, the best-case scenario has been pushed back steadily from there.

By the time the NYSGC appointed members for the Gaming Facility Location Board (GFLB) in October 2022, there was already talk that there might not be a decision until early 2024. The GFLB started the process in January 2023 by issuing a Request for Applications document. However, by the end of 2023, state regulators were still not ready to accept applications.

That pushed the timeline back into 2025, and now it’s creeping in the direction of 2026. That may mean a long wait for New Yorkers hoping for online casinos.

How the Retail Licensing Delays Impact New York Online Casinos

This year’s iGaming effort in New York isn’t officially dead, but the odds don’t look good. Delays in the retail licensing process compound that bad news.

Legalizing and licensing online casinos would be a lengthy process in its own right. If that process can’t start until the retail licenses are awarded, hopes might be slim for New York online casinos for several more years.

For one thing, the delay makes it much more difficult for the effort to earn Gov. Hochul’s support. The governor has said that she doesn’t want to discuss online casinos before the end of the retail casino process. Earlier this year, Gov. Hochul didn’t include either of the two online casino proposals in her executive budget. Neither have the bills made it into the state budget, which lawmakers are discussing this month.

Gov. Hochul isn’t the only one who has tied downstate casinos to online casino legislation. The opposition by the Hotel and Gaming Trade Council (HTC) was the primary killer of the 2023 proposal. HTC fears legalizing online casinos in New York will result in job cuts across retail casinos. And without new retail casinos, the chances of HTC getting on board are slim.

At the beginning of 2024, Bhav Tibrewal, political director of HTC, told Bonus that considering an iGaming bill before the downstate casino licenses process is completed is a “terrible idea.” He added that iGaming legislation could distract lawmakers from the downstate casino license process.

According to state Sen. Addabbo, the governor has yet to meet with him to discuss his online casino bill. While Addabbo’s bill is still alive, not being part of the budget is a significant obstacle.

Gov. Hochul won re-election in 2022 and will keep her position until at least the end of 2026. Between that and the retail casino timeline, next year’s iGaming effort in New York could be dead on arrival unless she has a change of heart in the meantime.

NYSGC Says It Wants To Give Applicants More Time

Though the delays are frustrating, the NYSGC says they’re necessary to allow time for all applicants to complete environmental reviews. According to Robert Williams, executive director of NYSGS, that process can be completed by the summer of 2025. Once done, the GFLB can review applications and make recommendations to the NYSGS.

Commission officials added that the delay would give more time to four specific applicants who require an additional land review process. The NYSGS says this will also take considerable time. The applications in question are:

  • A Coney Island site proposed by Thor Properties and multiple partners.
  • Bally’s proposal for a casino at the Trump Golf Links at Ferry Points in the Bronx.
  • The Citi Field proposal by Mets owner Steve Cohen and Hard Rock International.
  • The Hudson Yards proposal by Related Companies and Wynn Resorts.

The state also hopes that the extra time will mean more applicants emerge. The process has attracted 11 hopefuls to date, but Commission Chairman Brian O’Dwyer says getting the maximum number of applicants is important. The extra time ensures only serious and suitable licensees are considered.

The hope is presumably that more competition will mean higher winning bids and more money for the state. The minimum bid is $1 billion, including a $500 million license fee. However, there are already some bids much higher than that. Resorts World’s proposal, for instance, is worth $5 billion.

About the Author

Chav Vasilev

Chav Vasilev

After years of managing fast-casual restaurants, Chav turned his passion for sports and occasional slot wins into a career as an iGaming writer. Sharing his time between Europe and the US, he has been exposed to betting and gambling for years and has closely followed the growth in the US. Chav is a proponent of playing responsibly and playing only at legal online sites. When not writing, you will find him watching and betting on sports, especially soccer, or trying to land the next big bonus on a slot.
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