iGaming Legalization Efforts in New York in ‘Holding Pattern,’ Senator Says

The comments come as legalization of iGaming in the United States continues to lag sports betting.

Mar 7, 2024 • 15:47 ET • 2 min read
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The legalization of online casino gambling in the Empire State may need help from a higher power — the governor — and until there is a pressing want or need for more tax revenue, legislative efforts are in a “holding pattern.” 

So suggested New York State Sen. Joseph Addabbo Jr. on Thursday at the NEXT Summit New York conference in Manhattan.

Addabbo, speaking on a panel alongside the recently retired director of New Jersey’s Division of Gaming Enforcement, David Rebuck, was asked about the likelihood of New York passing an iGaming bill this year. 

"It's tough,” Addabbo said. “It needs to be, in my opinion, governor-driven.”

The possibility of expanded gambling is greater under New York Gov. Kathy Hochul than her predecessor, said Addabbo, a Democrat who chairs the Senate's Committee on Racing, Gaming and Wagering.

And, if Hochul (a fellow Democrat) were to face the possibility of running a major deficit or the prospect of cuts to health-care spending, the revenue from iGaming could help shore up that shortfall, the senator suggested. A similar need was created by the financial pressures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and helped lead to the legalization and launch of online sports betting in New York.

“It needs to be navigated by the governor, in my opinion,” Addabbo said. “We are in a holding pattern until there's a need.”

The comments from the senator come as legalization of iGaming in the United States continues to lag sports betting. While 38 states have authorized some form of event wagering, iGaming bills have only been signed into law in seven, and not every one of those jurisdictions offers a competitive market. In Rhode Island, for example, Bally's Corp. is the only authorized iGaming operator.

Moreover, it is looking increasingly unlikely that another iGaming bill will pass this year, including legislation proposed by Addabbo in New York. Hochul left iGaming out of her latest budget, a strong signal that legalization is not in the cards this year. 

It's the economy, operators

In New York and Maryland, two prospects for future iGaming legalization, the industry and supportive lawmakers have run into opposition from labor unions and others concerned about potential job losses in the brick-and-mortar hospitality business. 

Rebuck, however, said New Jersey’s model for iGaming, wherein operators are tethered to brick-and-mortar casino operators, hasn’t caused any job losses since its launch in 2013. Furthermore, live-dealer games require flesh-and-blood employees and have proven popular with players. 

In a nod to offshore and fantasy operators, Rebuck also said that just because a state isn’t regulating online gambling, it doesn’t mean that there is no online gambling happening there. 

"If you do nothing, guess what? It's still there," Rebuck said. "Everyone has online gambling. Even Utah."

Hope springs eternal

Rebuck and Addabbo also noted that regulated U.S. casino sites provide data and tools for helping players and combating problem gambling, which unregulated operators are not providing to the states while they offer online slots and table games. 

Addabbo also remains optimistic that iGaming (which could prove more profitable for states and operators) will gain traction in his state and that the various concerns can be addressed, even if there is more work to be done to convince opponents.

“There is no hurdle too big to advance iGaming in N.Y.," Addabbo said. 

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