A key retail casino workers union is “firmly opposed” to the 2024 New York online casino bill, a leader told Bonus on Jan. 18. In response, the proposed legislation’s sponsor said to Bonus that he believes any issues with the bill can be resolved “by working together.”
On Jan. 11, state Sen. Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. introduced SB8185. The bill proposes legal New York iGaming and, for the first time, iLottery.
Legalizing iGaming will result in land-based casino job losses, said Bhav Tibrewal, political director at the Hotel and Gaming Trades Council (HTC). Also, proposing a New York online casino bill while the state’s gaming regulator is going through the process of adding three downstate retail casino licenses is “just a terrible time to be considering it,” he told Bonus.
Tibrewal emphasized in the phone interview with Bonus:
We are firmly opposed.
He said New York lawmakers know HTC is against the bill:
We’re not shy about our opposition. We’re sharing our opposition across the entire state legislature.
That could be a problem for the proposed law. HTC’s opposition to legal iGaming was the primary killer of the 2023 New York online casino bill.
The “union of hotel workers in the New York City metropolitan area, the Capital Region of New York State, and New Jersey” negotiates on behalf of about 40,000 workers. The union’s New Jersey workers are in a state that launched iGaming 10 years ago.
Addabbo told Bonus on Jan. 18:
I do want to address every issue they have, and I think we can.
However, they must be willing to work together to reach an agreement. So far, they’ve only talked on the phone once, about a month ago, Addabbo said.
Tibrewal told Bonus:
We’ve already met with him, and he’s well aware of our position.
Is SB8185 a Job Killer?
Tibrewal said in his Jan. 18 interview with Bonus that iGaming doesn’t create jobs. Meanwhile, land-based casino workers have “fantastic middle-class jobs” that they could lose if online casino and poker gambling cannibalizes retail casino revenue.
He told Bonus:
We believe that iGaming will only have a negative impact on the jobs at the brick-and-mortar casinos in New York State and on the New Yorkers who rely on those jobs.
Anyone who thinks otherwise is “misguided,” Tibrewal told Bonus.
“There’s no validity to that statement,” Addabbo responded to Bonus.
He told Bonus he designed the New York online casino bill to add jobs and $25 million annually to retain and train current retail casino workers.
Addabbo said to Bonus:
I don’t want my constituents to be out of a job.
The Democrat from Woodhaven estimated launching New York online casino and poker gambling would immediately add at least 1,000 workers to Tibrewal’s union. He’s talking about the passages in SB8185 that say live dealer studios must be built in New York to serve New Yorkers.
Addabbo told Bonus on Jan. 18:
You require live dealers and stagehands to be in New York. You automatically create union jobs. Period. It’s in my bill.
In his recent tour of two New Jersey live dealer studios, Addabbo also liked the quality of the work New Yorkers would be getting if the New York online casino bill became law. The Evolution (Evolution AB (publ) 7,53 +1,76%) gaming facilities he saw were housed by Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Atlantic City and Ocean Casino Resort.
Addabbo said to Bonus:
These are good jobs.
Does SB8185 Cut Into Retail Casino Revenue?
Tibrewal told Bonus that New York iGaming would cut into retail casino revenue.
Addabbo offers up New Jersey’s statistics in his rebuttal.
In the Garden State, he said iGaming complements and adds to the retail casino business.
There has been evidence of coexistence of iGaming and brick-and-mortar in New Jersey.
In 2023, New Jersey’s online casino and poker rooms generated more than $1.9 billion in gross gaming revenue (GGR), reports David Danzis of PlayNJ. Bonus and PlayNJ are Catena Media publications.
Meanwhile, revenue increased at New Jersey’s retail casinos. The state houses nine casinos, all in Atlantic City, that have online casino and poker operators partnered with them on their gaming licenses.
Danzis reports on Jan. 17:
For the year, Atlantic City casino in-person gambling revenue was up 2.2% compared to 2022. The industry’s $2.85 billion from slot machines and table games in 2023 is the highest annual total since 2013 ($2.86 billion).
Comparing apples to apples, the American Gaming Association (AGA) lists figures for New Jersey and New York retail casinos.
The nine Atlantic City gaming establishments support 39,007 jobs and generated $5.21 billion in GGR during 2022.
Meanwhile, New York’s 13 commercial casinos supported 17,247 employees and generated $4.23 billion in GGR in 2022. To round out the Empire State’s 31 land-based casinos, New York’s 18 tribal casinos supported 8,537 jobs and generated $925.8 million in GGR during 2016.
Must Regulators Concentrate on Downstate Licenses?
Tibrewal said land-based gaming “is a good thing for the state” because it creates jobs for New Yorkers.
That’s why he’s happy about the ongoing downstate retail casino license process.
Tibrewal told Bonus on Jan. 18:
That is going to be many thousand more casino jobs created.
That’s why he thinks “introducing this new concept” of the New York online casino bill would change the dynamic while expanding legal gambling.
It’s also just a terrible time to be considering it.
Addabbo said the New York online casino bill will go through an entirely different process and won’t interfere with the retail casino licensing decisions.
Bonus reporting shows legislators handle a bill. Separately, the New York State Gaming Commission (NYSGC) and its appointed siting board oversee the downstate retail casino licensing process.
Addabbo added that, like Tibrewal, he’s excited that the three new retail casinos will add about 4,000 jobs for New Yorkers.
No Revenue Yet From Downstate Licenses
The $232.7 billion FY2025 NYS Executive Budget Gov. Kathleen C. Hochul proposed on Jan. 16 only mentioned revenue from downstate retail casinos as something she believed would arrive during Fiscal Year 2024.
Hochul didn’t appear to count on that revenue arriving quickly in this proposed budget.
However, she also didn’t include the New York online casino bill in the document and hasn’t yet agreed to meet with Addabbo to discuss it.
Considering New York’s expected upcoming deficits, Addabbo told Bonus that it might be practical for Hochul to discuss iGaming with him. After all, it could generate $1 billion annually for New York.
Addabbo told Bonus:
You may not want to do iGaming and iLottery, but you may need to do iGaming and iLottery.
Former New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo also didn’t want to legalize sports betting. But he did so when pandemic lockdowns impacted state coffers.
Addabbo said to Bonus:
And now, many are thankful.
Even previous “naysayers,” he added.
It could be the same thing with iGaming.
So, Addabbo said, he’d like to have a “rational discussion” about the “facts” with Hochul, lawmakers, and the union. Otherwise, projected deficits will only worsen if New York waits to figure out how to generate revenue.
So much is at stake.
Addabbo concluded on Jan. 18:
I don’t believe there’s any concern with regards to iGaming that we can’t resolve by working together. But it takes an initiative to want to address those issues. … If you want to do it together, we can do this.
Meanwhile, HTC leaders may believe they have Hochul’s general support.
On HTC’s Facebook page, a post highlights one of Hochul’s Jan. 9 2024 State of the State Address comments.
HTC truncated it to:
We’re enacting a vision of New York … Where unions are strong and our infrastructure is resilient …
In full, it reads differently:
We’re enacting a vision of New York where veterans embark upon incredible careers, fighting the climate crisis with green energy and offshore wind. Where unions are strong and our infrastructure is resilient, able to withstand hundred-year storms.
In context, Hochul’s quote discusses “infrastructure and public transit projects like the 2nd Avenue Subway Extension Interborough Express, I-81 Viaduct, and the Kensington expressway.”
So, like she did in her proposed budget, Hochul omitted iGaming.