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New York’s igaming Dream: What’s next?

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New York’s igaming dream is in disarray. iGB explores the long-term push to launch the channel, and its uncertain future.

New Yorkers who support igaming are in a whiplash-like state. State Senator Joseph Addabbo, who represents the Empire State, introduced Senate Bill S8185 just under two weeks back. The bill would have legalised igaming with one important addition: ilottery. Addabbo was making his latest effort to introduce igaming after S4856 failed last year.

Glaser says New York will be the largest gaming market in the world.

But days later, New York’s governor, Kathy Hochul, decided not to include igaming in the state’s $232.7bn (PS183.73bn/EUR214.70bn) budget for 2025, throwing cold water over the whole affair.

In the US this is not unusual. States spend years advocating a particular type of gambling to be implemented. California’s sports betting legislative record is a good indicator. What’s so special about bringing igaming into New York?

Howard Glaser is the head of Light & Wonder’s government affairs department and legislative counsel. He believes that New York could become the state with the highest igaming activity in the nation.

He says that if New York State adopted igaming the market would become one of the largest gaming markets on the planet. This is a 20-million-person state, with 14 million adults. It’s a very robust gaming environment.

Enjoy the Success of Your Terrain

Other states that have introduced igaming to great revenue success are even more persuasive.

Glaser says that there are models which have been extraordinarily successful in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. In New Jersey and Pennsylvania they are running $1.5bn to $1.7bn each over the past 12 months, along with tax revenues. Michigan’s tax revenue is also close to this level.

There is no doubt that the model will be successful.

This is a pretty sure bet, and that should make a legislator happy. Why hasn’t this been a success in the legislative body? Glaser says that the issue is to resolve igaming politically. He says that the challenge lies in resolving the political issues within the US industry, as well as some external influences.

Addabbo says Senate Bill S8185 is a starting point for negotiations

This is the second time in a year that this bill was introduced. It was not a major change. This is the starting point of the conversation. It’s a way to maintain momentum and get another important US state involved.”

What is the Senate Bill S8185 offering New York State?

Addabbo describes the conversation as a “starting point” for igaming.

He says that it’s “a starting point” for the negotiations he hopes to have during New York’s budget process for igaming, ilottery and other forms of igaming. It sets out the parameters that I see and which hopefully will be reflected by my counterparts in the assembly.

Highlights of the bill include a tax rate of 30.5%. The bill also includes a fund of $25 million to safeguard existing jobs at casinos, and another fund of $11 million for programs aimed at problem gambling. Of course, there is ilotry.

He explains that “this new bill has been improved over the one introduced last year.” This bill includes ilottery and again, a fund of $25m to protect jobs. We do this because we don’t want to see igaming cannibalize any of the existing jobs in brick-and-mortar casinos.

The bill was generally well-received, or, at least, there hasn’t been a problem that can’t be fixed.

He admits, “We have some who love the idea and are advocates of igaming in New York. And there are others who have reservations and concerns. I have heard many,” he says. There is no issue that has been raised that cannot be resolved or addressed by the legislation or a variant of the law.

The budget of Governor Hochul is a surprise

However, the absence of gaming in New York’s budget for 2025 presents a natural challenge. Glaser was not surprised by this.

This is their game. The governor of New York, and most US states in general, will present a budget that is lower than the spending level the legislators would prefer.

Next, the legislators are put under pressure. They’ll need to first find more money if they plan to increase spending.

New York governor Kathy Hochul did not include igaming in the state’s FY25 budget

Addabbo, of course, would prefer igaming be included in the budget. But he is not ready to give up just yet. He will keep an eye out for the budget of the executive.

The executive budget tells us where she (Hochul) wants to take our state. Budget negotiations in January, February, and March will determine how to pay for all of these items.

I’ll remain hopeful that we will be able to have a conversation about it as part of the budget process.

What is the future of igaming for New York City?

It’s fair to say that New York’s dream of igaming is alive and well. Glaser suggests that this is only the beginning of the process.

He explains, “We are just in the first inning; the Governor is just starting it.” I have no doubt the Governor would approve it if they included the legislation in the version of their budget.

He continues that the biggest obstacle is state labour unions. Addabbo’s bill has a unique feature: in order to be eligible for an interactive gaming license, operators of live dealer games must sign a labor agreement with a trade union.

Glaser says, “The problem is that New York has a large labour union. This is the same as other states. All land-based casino workers are unionized. These unions worry about their members’ experience in casinos.

The Land-based market will grow with the introduction of igaming, says Glaser

It is important to work with land-based casinos in order to show them that the igaming market will not harm the existing casino industry. The entertainment market is mostly digital. If the casinos do not have a digital element, they will be unable to achieve the growth that they need at either the land-based or igaming levels.

Igaming and Lottery will be the sure-fire solution for Addabbo.

He explains, “I am optimistic because the New York State Comptroller who oversees our finances tells me that we are in a poor fiscal position this year. It will only get worse by 2025-2026.” You need sustainable revenues. These one-shot tricks are not sustainable. “Igaming, ilottery and other i-games are the future.”

New York’s journey in igaming has been nothing less than a rollercoaster. There is light at the other end and it’s a long way down.

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