Pretlow Introduces Companion New York Online Casino Bill, Addabbo Remains Hopeful

The companion New York online casino bill is working its way through the Assembly. Now that state Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow introduced AB9198 on Feb. 14, both chambers of the New York State Legislature are considering legalizing iGaming.

Pretlow, D-Mount Vernon, who has called himself “the father of sports betting,” is the Assembly’s Standing Committee on Racing and Wagering chairman. That’s where AB9198 came to rest on Valentine’s Day.

He and state Sen. Joseph P. Addabbo Jr., D-Woodhaven, tend to work together on efforts to expand legal gambling. For instance, they spearheaded efforts to create the mobile sports betting marketplace that launched on Jan. 8, 2022.

It appears as though the 2024 effort to legalize iGaming is no different. Pretlow’s 11-page-long New York online casino bill seems identical to SB8185. The latter is the online casino, poker, and iLottery measure Addabbo introduced to the Senate on Jan. 11 and amended on Feb. 1.

The proposed legislation outlines a 30.5% tax rate on iGaming operators, which Addabbo says analysts estimate can generate $4 billion annually for state coffers.

New York could really use that money, considering mid-March state budget negotiations will probably reveal more cuts are necessary to have a balanced budget next year, Addabbo told Bonus on Feb. 15.

He predicts constituents won’t like those cuts, so lawmakers will be looking for new sources of revenue.

So, Addabbo told Bonus, he’s pleased that Pretlow introduced the bill:

Hopefully, it spurs conversation.

Pretlow didn’t immediately return a Feb. 15 request for comment from Bonus.

New York Online Casino Bill ‘Obstacles’

Unfortunately, said Addabbo, Gov. Kathleen C. Hochul and representatives of the Hotel and Gaming Trades Council (HTC) haven’t yet met with him to discuss the measure. The casino workers union did talk to him about its opposition to the New York online casino bill that includes $25 million annually in job training for its members.

HTC Political Director Bhav Tibrewal told Bonus on Jan. 18 that the union believes iGaming would cut into land-based casino revenue and result in job losses. He also worried that working on a New York online casino bill would distract from the downstate casino licensing process.

The process of awarding three new licenses has been stalled since Oct. 6, 2023.

Addabbo told Bonus on Feb. 15 that he and Pretlow are willing to negotiate new language in the bill, as they did for sports betting.

He said to Bonus about AB9198 and SB8185:

Our bills are meant to create a framework.

However, he can’t adjust the bill based on negotiated language if the discussions don’t happen.

Addabbo told Bonus:

We find ourselves frustrated. … We’re met with a lot of obstacles.

April’s New York Budget Votes

Addabbo was hoping to see the New York online casino bill included in Hochul’s executive budget.

However, Bonus saw she published it in January without mentioning iGaming. Surprisingly, it also didn’t mention possible revenue from downstate casinos as her proposed budget had last year.

Addabbo believes that this year’s budget, which lawmakers will approve in April, should legalize iGaming. He thinks Hochul may not want to do so but will see that the revenue is necessary.

Addabbo told Bonus on Feb. 15:

It should be in the budget.

That process should begin in five or six weeks, he estimated.

Commercial Casino Licenses Stalled

New York may not see revenue from three new downstate casinos in 2024.

That’s because New Yorkers haven’t seen progress since Oct. 6 on the three new downstate retail casino licenses that will eventually be awarded to gaming operators. The next stage in that process is expected to be a formal request for applications from operators who want to buy those licenses. At that point, the names of the applicants may become public record rather than just speculation.

However, the siting board appointed by the New York State Gaming Commission (NYSGC) hasn’t yet issued that request.

The state gaming regulator appointed the Gaming Facility Location Board (GFLB) on Oct. 3, 2022. The siting board began the process on Jan. 3, 2023.

However, iGaming opponents say the New York online casino bill would distract from the regulator’s process.

Addabbo told Bonus on Feb. 15 that, at this point, New York probably wouldn’t see revenue or new jobs from those casinos for quite some time. If the chosen licensees have to build new casinos, the revenue won’t come in for two or three years.

Addabbo told Bonus that zoning issues may be holding up the process.

However, he said, the GFLB needs to see applicant submissions to know where to examine zoning matters.

Addabbo said to Bonus:

You don’t know the zoning issues until you see the sites.

Nevertheless, zoning matters should’ve been discussed “months ago.”

Union Jobs and Timelines

Addabbo said to Bonus on Feb. 15 regarding downstate casinos:

The operators are ready. … It’s getting to the point of being embarrassing. …

There’s too much at stake here for the delay. We could’ve and should’ve been doing this by now.

He said he and Pretlow agree:

We share this frustration.

Pretlow’s constituents could benefit from new jobs if the siting board selects Empire City in Yonkers for a full gaming license and MGM Resorts International (MGM Resorts International 42,70 -0,35%) goes forward with its proposal for MGM Empire City.

Addabbo’s Senate district contains Resorts World New York City. If that gaming facility applies and gains a full license, his constituents could benefit from the new union jobs, Addabbo told Bonus.

Meanwhile, Addabbo said the New York online casino bill could move quickly to create revenue in 2025. He said that lawmakers approving the bill and Hochul signing it into law during 2024 would result in tax dollars once the marketplace launches in 2025. Analysts tell him that when the iGaming market matures, New York coffers could see $4 billion annually.

Addabbo told Bonus:

I don’t get into the projections. All I know is we’re losing money.

Potential New York tax revenue currently heading to illegal offshore online gambling sites and those in other legal iGaming states bothers him, but not as much as New York not knowing who’s experiencing gambling trouble. Addabbo told Bonus that housing legal iGaming sites in New York will make identifying New Yorkers who need help easier.

So, Addabbo said, he and Pretlow would appreciate support for the New York online casino bill:

Gary and I can’t do it alone.

Meanwhile, Addabbo said he’s glad Pretlow sponsored AB9198 and there’s some movement toward legalizing iGaming in New York.

Addabbo told Bonus:

At times, it is frustrating. But I guess misery loves company.

About the Author

Heather Fletcher

Heather Fletcher

Heather Fletcher is Lead Writer at Bonus, concentrating on online casino coverage. She specializes in breaking news, legislative coverage, and gambling marketing strategy overviews. To reach Heather with a news tip, email [email protected].
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