New York Governor Leaves Online Casino Out Of Budget Plan

January 17, 2024
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The already tenuous hopes for online casino legislation in New York this year were dealt a further blow with a lack of upfront support from the state’s governor.
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The already tenuous hopes for online casino legislation in New York this year were dealt a further blow with a lack of upfront support from the state’s governor.

Governor Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, released her 2025 executive budget proposal on Tuesday (January 16), and notably absent from the plan was any mention of online casino gaming or potential revenue from the licensing and regulation of the activity.

Although Democratic state Senator Joe Addabbo filed new online casino legislation last week, significant gaming expansion measures in New York tend to be passed through the state budget process, which sees the governor releasing their proposal in January and then the Senate and Assembly releasing their one-house budget plans a few weeks later.

With all three proposals on the table, closed-door negotiations between legislative leaders and the executive branch then typically result in a budget in late March or early April.

The most obvious recent example of this in a gaming context is New York’s passage of mobile sports betting in 2021, when former Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo included the activity in his January executive budget, and both chambers followed suit by including mobile sports wagering, albeit under a different operating model, in their own proposals.

Addabbo has already stated that without Hochul’s support, he would not be as inclined to make a serious push for iGaming to be included in the Senate’s one-house budget plan.

A earlier bill filed last year by Addabbo, the chair of the Senate's gaming committee and point person for gambling matters, faced opposition from hotel and casino workers unions over potential cannibalization concerns. Addabbo’s new bill includes a $25m fund for worker training as an attempt to smooth over concerns with the union. 

Another policy obstacle for iGaming is the fact that the state remains in the process of settling several high bandwidth gaming issues, including the awarding of three downstate casino-resort licenses in or around New York City, as well as the negotiation of a new tribal gaming compact with the Seneca Nation of Indians. 

A temporary compact between the state and the Seneca Nation expires on March 31, the same day that marks the end of New York's current fiscal year.

Hochul’s budget plan does reference the casino licensing process, designating the projected $1.5bn in one-time license fees and a share of an estimated $231m to $413m in incremental tax revenue from the new casinos to improvements to the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).

Generating additional funds for the MTA was at least one of the arguments in favor of legalizing online casino gaming in 2023.

If a renewed push on iGaming is to come during budget talks, that would have to be within the next few weeks as one-house budget plans are typically released by the Senate and Assembly in early to mid-March. It will be up to Addabbo and other supporters to convince both Hochul and legislative leaders that iGaming is a logical way to cover any increased expenditures desired by the legislature, while maintaining the governor's pledge not to increase taxes.

On the more remote chance that supporters make an effort to pass standalone legislation outside the budget process, the state’s legislative session is scheduled to end June 6.

Online casino hopes across the United States for 2024 remain fairly bleak, with only a handful of states expected to seriously consider an effort to legalize the activity, including potentially Illinois, Louisiana and Maryland, among others.

Legislators in Indiana and New Hampshire, two states where a serious effort was mounted to adopt online casino legislation in 2023, have already said that a similar push will not take place in 2024.

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