New York Senator To Continue iGaming Pursuit Despite Setback

January 19, 2024
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A key New York lawmaker said he will not give up his pursuit of online casino legislation despite its absence from the governor’s executive budget proposal earlier this week and continued opposition from key union groups.
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A key New York lawmaker said he will not give up his pursuit of online casino legislation despite its absence from the governor’s executive budget proposal earlier this week and continued opposition from key union groups.

Senator Joseph Addabbo told Vixio GamblingCompliance that despite Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul leaving online casino out of her budget plan, options remain on the table for how the legislation could still form part of ongoing state budget conversations.

“If the governor was to put it in her executive budget, it would have been the best-case scenario,” said the veteran Democratic senator and chair of the Senate's gaming committee.

“You find out, as normal with executive budgets, what the governor wants to do, but not that much on how she’s going to do it,” Addabbo told Vixio.

“We know what she wants to invest in, she knows what she wants to do, but the ‘how’ is where iGaming comes in here.”

Addabbo said that although standalone legislation for internet gaming remains an unlikely route to legislative approval, he remains hopeful that online casino could find its way into budget talks in March or even towards the end of session in a potential so-called “big ugly” clean-up bill to help cover revenue shortfalls through various policy proposals.

“There are opportunities here, but it all starts with initiative, this opportunity that I’m hoping this governor pulls us all together,” he said. “She gets the unions to come to the table, she gets the legislators, she gets all the pieces together as governor, and she could do it.”

One of the key obstacles for iGaming legislation in New York has been opposition from the influential Hotel and Gaming Trades Council, which represents workers at land-based casino properties, over concerns that online casino would cannibalize brick-and-mortar casino jobs.

Addabbo’s new bill, which was filed in the Senate last week, included a $25m fund for union worker training, but those cannibalization fears still exist, and Addabbo acknowledged that those union concerns have also been reflected in the Hochul administration’s position on the issue so far.

“There’s concerns, on behalf of the union, and I understand that,” he said. “To an extent, I’m concerned too, my intent would never be to cannibalize a brick-and-mortar facility.

“I understand the concerns for cannibalization, growth, downstate [casino] licenses, all of it, but there is no hurdle in my opinion that can’t be addressed and we still do iGaming going forward.”

Addabbo also addressed a so-called "bad actor" provision in his bill that would prevent certain companies from being eligible for an interactive gaming license in New York.

Specifically, Addabbo's bill would prevent the New York State Gaming Commission from licensing any iGaming operator if the operator or any of its affiliates are accepting revenue either from countries on the Financial Action Task Force’s blacklist of money laundering countries, which includes North Korea, Iran and Myanmar, or from a country designated to be a state sponsor of terrorism by the U.S. Government, adding Cuba and Syria to those prohibited jurisdictions.

Some in the gaming industry have interpreted these provisions as an attempt to disqualify online gambling companies that are alleged to have generated revenue in Iran, but Addabbo says although he has heard similar arguments, the provisions are designed to prevent illegal offshore operators from obtaining licensure.

“I don’t think the legislature should be in the business of choosing sides, excluding businesses,” he said. “That’s not our business, and that would be part of the negotiation.

“If the governor thought this is a clause that can't be implemented, so be it, this is part of what we want to do and have those kinds of discussions,” he added. “But I think we need to raise awareness of an illegal market and who we do business with.” 

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