New York state Senator Joseph Addabbo has acknowledged he may have acted too soon by introducing an online gaming bill during this year’s legislative session as lawmakers were coming off approving mobile sports betting and then three downstate casino licenses.
“It may have been a little too much, too soon,” Addabbo said Friday (May 13) during the iGaming Next conference in New York City.
Still, Addabbo said his proposal allows lawmakers to start the conversation about policy hurdles, “so we can pave the road ahead” when it comes to internet gaming.
“In my opinion, it’s not a matter of if it happens, but when,” he said. “It’s going to happen. If we look at next year’s budget when we won’t have the federal help the state may need … there it is.”
Addabbo noted the neighboring states of Connecticut and New Jersey have already legalized online gaming and are doing it very well.
Internet gaming, he said, is “the natural progression for New York to take in terms of the gaming industry.”
Senate Bill 8412, authored by Addabbo, was introduced in February and passed on April 25 by the Senate Committee on Racing, Gaming and Wagering, which he chairs. It is currently pending before the Senate Finance Committee.
The bill would allow for registered players to play online casino games if they are physically located in New York, and provided the wagers are accepted by servers located at a licensed casino-resort facility.
New York land-based casinos would be allowed to offer up to two online casino skins each, provided that the platforms are authorized by the New York State Gaming Commission.
Casino operators would also be required to pay a one-time fee of $2m, while online operators they partner with would have to pay a $10m fee. The tax rate for internet gaming was set at 25 percent of gross gaming revenue.
Addabbo assured attendees that internet gaming would be his next endeavor.
“For my colleagues who are apprehensive about gaming they have to understand that this is already happening,” he said. “They are already doing online poker and roulette in New York.
“We did mobile sports betting last year, downstate licenses this year, but I just think New York is on a great path here when we do gaming in a responsible way.”
The two-day iGaming Next conference was attended by gaming executives, suppliers, Wall Street analysts, venture capitalists and others looking to understand the growing U.S. gaming market.
Jonathan Doubilet, vice president of business operations with Playtech, was less bullish on Addabbo’s ability to get an internet gaming bill through the New York legislature.
Doubilet, who spoke Friday after Addabbo, said he was more optimistic about Indiana, Iowa and possibly Illinois legalizing iGaming.
Overall, Addabbo said New York was in a good place with the state of its gaming industry.
He praised the state gaming commission for getting mobile sports betting up and running during a change of administrations from Governor Andrew Cuomo to Governor Kathy Hochul, both Democrats.
Addabbo joined Bill Pascrell III, partner at Princceton Public Affairs Group, for the half-hour update on New York’s gaming industry.
Pascrell also asked Addabbo if he was open to reconsidering New York’s 51 percent tax rate on mobile sports wagering and opening the market to additional mobile operators.
Addabbo said the structure that he and his colleague, Democratic Assemblyman Gary Pretlow, proposed originally was a lot different to what Cuomo’s vision was.
“We wanted to go through the casinos … like New Jersey because most people on the planet would consider New Jersey being successful. Unfortunately, our governor had a different vision, similar to New Hampshire because New York is so much like New Hampshire!”
Addabbo said Cuomo thought it was the perfect model, allowing for 51 percent of revenue to go to the state.
Cuomo initially sought to limit the number of licensees for online sports betting to two.
“Then we got it to four, and now nine. But 51 percent, that was a Governor Cuomo thing. We are successful but not done. We have to figure out how to make it better.”
Addabbo said he expected lawmakers sometime down the line to increase the number of operators and discuss whether to tinker with the 51 percent tax rate.
“It was too premature to do it in this year’s budget,” he said.