Furor Over New York Online Gambling Bill

An open letter against online betting in the Empire State was signed by almost 700 Queens casino workers.

Feb 20, 2024 • 12:46 ET • 4 min read
New York
Photo By - USA TODAY Sports

A proposed bill to legalize online gambling in New York has proved hugely controversial in recent weeks. 

The bill, which is publicly supported by New York Sen. Joseph Addabbo Jr., has sparked massive criticism amongst casino workers, with many fearing that it could jeopardize their livelihoods. 

Addabbo has been behind a huge push towards legalizing online gambling in the state since 2019. But casino workers feel that this would be a big mistake. An open letter to the senator was signed by almost 700 Queens casino workers, many of whom are his constituents.  

“We find it appalling that you are pushing legislation that would hurt workers like us and our industry, in order to benefit a handful of companies who are seeking massive profits at our expense," read the letter, sent by the Hotel and Gaming Trades Council union, and obtained by the New York Post.

Real fear amongst casino workers worried about their jobs 

It’s not often that those working within the gambling industry share their criticisms so publicly, so this move clearly shows the strength of feeling amongst New York casino workers. 

“When customers come to a racino, (Video Lottery Terminal) parlor, or casino, they support all of our jobs, including cooks, bartenders, servers, maintenance workers, and hotel workers," the letter said. "We know that if, instead, they were to game from their homes, workplaces, or elsewhere, their dollars would go straight into the pockets of gaming companies, rather than to support the livelihoods of thousands of New Yorkers who support the state’s gaming industry.” 

Addabbo does have a strong case for his support of iGaming in the state, however. Online gambling is already legal in the nearby states of New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut, so some say that it’s only a matter of time before it’s legalized in New York, too.

A strong argument for legalization 

There’s no denying the fact that the legalization of iGaming would bring in some much needed revenue for the state of New York. According to estimates outlined in Addabbo’s proposal, iGaming and iLottery projects could generate roughly $1 billion annually.

There is an argument that by not legalizing online gambling, New York could actually be losing out on huge amounts of potential tax revenue - which is currently being generated in its surrounding states. Addabbo has stated that with a potential 30.5% tax rate and $2 million licensing fee, this bill could resolve projected deficits.

Disputing the claim that iGaming would destroy brick-and-mortar casino jobs, Addabbo notes studies that back up his view - that online gaming could actually increase job opportunities in the sector.

Eilers & Krejcik Gaming (EKG) recently released a comprehensive study on the subject. The study found that iGaming complements, rather than competes with, traditional land-based casino revenue streams, and as such might not present such a threat to casino workers’ livelihoods after all. 

The proposed legislation will also offer some concrete protection for those working in the sector. A fund of $25 million per year is to be dedicated to the protection of casino jobs, with online casino dealers also being represented by unions. 

It’s worth noting that online gambling companies and associated brands (like DraftKings and FanDuel) have made hefty contributions to Addabbo’s campaign funds recently. Records show that iGaming companies have spent up to $77,100 on the Addabbo campaign.

Will we see legalization of iGaming in the Empire State this year? 

The legalization of iGaming in New York remains on the table for now, but with the news that Gov. Kathy Hochul’s $227 billion 2024 executive budget didn’t include iGaming, it’s safe to say that no sudden changes are on the horizon just yet. 

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