Legislature Approves Casino Acceleration Bill

Legislature Approves Casino Acceleration Bill

By Michael V. Cusenza

With Congestion Pricing in political purgatory, State elected officials have been scrambling to find new sources of revenue for the beleaguered Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

State Sen. Joe Addabbo, Jr. (D-Woodhaven) apparently made a strong case for his bill to accelerate the downstate casino licensing process to create at each site thousands of union construction jobs, thousands of post-construction union jobs and a significant influx of funds to the MTA.

As a result, the State Legislature has approved Addabbo’s plan.

In 2022, the Legislature authorized a process to create up to three new casino licenses in the downstate region, including areas in and around the five boroughs of the city. Addabbo sought to pass legislation because of the two-year lag in the process’s progress.

“In 1930, construction started on the Empire State Building. It took only a little over 13 months to build that 100-story building 94 years ago and yet the state can’t complete a process to determine the placement of a mere three casino licenses more than two years after legislative approval. That is a questionable process that needed to be addressed legislatively with deadlines,” Addabbo noted.

The process includes a competitive selection mechanism that prioritizes economic activity, local impact, workforce enhancement, and diversity plans. To expedite the licensing process and ensure timely economic benefits, Addabbo’s legislation includes specific deadlines for each step, from application submissions to final approvals, preventing delays and maintaining investor confidence. According to the bill, all downstate casino applications must be submitted by Aug. 31, 2024.

“While many expressed serious concerns when we first approved casinos statewide, over time they came to realize the success of these facilities has had a positive impact in sustaining billions in education funding, creating new youth sports opportunities, while ensuring gambling addiction remains a priority and addressing addiction with credible programs. Similarly, accelerating the downstate casino licensing process will generate billions in much-needed MTA revenue,” said Addabbo, chairman of the Senate Racing, Gaming, and Wagering Committee.

Another Addabbo bill would authorize online interactive gaming, known as iGaming, in New York State. Currently, seven states have authorized online interactive casino gaming, including neighbors New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania. In 2021, online casino gaming revenue exceeded $1 billion in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, generating approximately $120 million in tax revenue for each state. Addabbo pointed out that New Yorkers have been known to utilize iGaming in these neighboring states, as well as use illegal, unsafe online sites because New York does not have an online, iGaming product.

New York quickly became the leading mobile sports betting market nationally, generating nearly $70 million in tax revenue in a single month. Addabbo believes that if authorized, similarly iGaming in New York would quickly become the national leader in online casino gaming, generating hundreds of millions of dollars in new tax revenue annually for entities such as the MTA.

“The time has come to implement all of these realistic initiatives that are proven revenue generators for our neighboring states,” Addabbo added. “Our state often leads the nation on policies and services, but we are missing a tremendous opportunity to create thousands of jobs and net billions in revenue that will allow all of the MTA public transportation improvements to move forward without burdening taxpayers or businesses in any way.”

The casino acceleration bill now awaits Gov. Kathy Hochul’s approval.

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