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The potential for a special session could lead to further discussion of the New York iGaming bill

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  • Digital Team 
The potential for a special session could lead to further discussion of the New York iGaming bill

Just when it seemed that online casino legislation would not happen in New York in 2024, the door could open to further discussions. The unlikely reason for this is the current funding issues experienced by the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA).

These issues were a top priority from the start of the last regular legislative session in January 2024. However, attempts to address them did not progress before the end of the regular session. These attempts included the state governor Kathy Hochul’s proposed congestion pricing plan, which was rejected by state lawmakers.

The plan aimed to generate around $1 billion annually for the MTA. With the plan dismissed and nothing else in place, the MTA will likely experience a $750 million funding gap for Fiscal Year 2025. Failure to address this situation could lead to reduced services, increased fares, and delayed maintenance.

Hochul does not want this scenario, and rumors are circulating that the legislature will reconvene for a special session rather than wait to discuss MTA funding options until 2025. If this happens and lawmakers seek to address MTA funding, the online casino bill supported by Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. could be up for discussion again.

The senator believes that legalizing iGaming could generate $1 billion annually in New York, as the leading sites for casino gaming have generated significant returns in other states where legalization has happened. For example, iGaming revenue in New Jersey in 2023 was $1.92 billion. If Addabbo’s predictions were correct, this figure could address immediate MTA funding concerns.

However, there has been no movement to call a special session so far, so any suggestion that one will happen remains a rumor. It’s also far from certain that iGaming will be discussed if a special session is called. If a discussion does take place, Hochul’s usual support for union stances will need to be addressed, as the New York Hotel Trades Council (HTC) is against the legalization of online casinos.

Bhav Tibrewal, HTC’s Political Director, has made it abundantly clear that the union is vehemently opposed to bill SB8185, which proposes the legalization of iGaming. He has communicated this stance to lawmakers, and Hochul may feel she cannot go against it.

The union’s opposition is based on its belief that legal online casinos will adversely affect land-based casinos and their proposed growth in the state. The union believes this could result in job losses in the state’s casino industry.

Addabbo disagrees with HTC’s objection to SB8185. He believes there is room in the market for both online and land-based casinos. He also believes that new jobs will be created if iGaming is legalized in New York. For example, there will be a need for online live casino dealers if legislation is passed and casino sites begin to operate in the state.

Addabbo also believes that addressing MTA funding issues is the perfect opportunity to launch further discussions concerning SB8185. He has already attempted to broker a deal with unions to facilitate such discussions but to no avail. His lack of success is a major stumbling block to any progression of SB8185.

So, while a special legislative session could provide an opportunity to further discuss iGaming in New York, it’s far from certain this will happen. Lawmakers would have to have a framework in place for Hochul to call a session. It’s important to remember that these special sessions do not often happen. There have only been four since 2016.

If a session is placed on the 2024 calendar, there is no guarantee that iGaming will be on the agenda. In fact, the union’s stance and Hochul’s likelihood to support that stance suggest that the reluctance to legalize iGaming will continue.

If the issue with MTA funding continues, the situation may change as a legal iGaming industry has the potential to raise vital finances. It may be that the MTA position becomes critical enough for a special session to happen, and that pressure will persuade Hochul to sign the iGaming bill into law. Whether this will happen in 2024 remains to be seen.

If not, iGaming is still likely to be on the agenda when the next regular legislative session convenes in 2025. Addabbo will continue to support the bill, which he sees as a revenue-generating opportunity for the state. The unions will continue to see the bill as a threat to land-based casinos. This is despite the position in New Jersey, where land-based casinos still generate the majority of overall gambling revenue even though iGaming is legal.

Senators, iGaming operators, and New York residents who relish the opportunity to play online casino games will continue to be closely interested in the possibility of a special session. They will continue to monitor the situation into the next regular session and beyond if necessary.

Categories: NewsNew York State