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Sen. Addabbo Pushes for Quick New York Casino Licensing

Senator Joe Addabbo pushes for expedited casino licensing in New York before legislative adjournment on June 6, aiming to create jobs and revenue while addressing delays by the state gaming commission.
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Branimir Ivanov | Senior News Contributor

Updated: May 23, 2024

New York in Limbo

In an eleventh-hour effort, Senator Joe Addabbo has vowed to push for the passage of bill S9673 before the New York legislature adjourns on June 6. Speaking to PlayUSA, Addabbo emphasized the urgency and intent behind the bill, which aims to expedite the issuance of casino licenses in downstate New York.

“I hope it’s realistic. This is not for show. I don’t want it to be for show,” Addabbo stated. “Some of my colleagues have asked why we haven’t realized at least the licensing fees. Hopefully, we can do this. The gaming commission could hold onto these licenses for years and that would be OK because there’s no timeline. So let’s give them a timeline.”

 

  1. Urgent Legislation: Senator Joe Addabbo is pushing for the passage of bill S9673 to expedite the issuance of up to three downstate casino licenses before the New York legislature adjourns on June 6.
  2. Addressing Delays: The bill mandates the New York State Gaming Commission to begin taking applications by July 31, countering the commission's extended timeline that could delay licenses until late 2025 or beyond.
  3. Economic Impact: Addabbo emphasizes the potential for job creation and billions in revenue, arguing that the prolonged delays are inconsistent with the legislature's intent and detrimental to the state's economic growth.

 

Addabbo’s proposed legislation sets a March 31 deadline for the New York State Gaming Commission to award up to three casino licenses in and around New York City, aligning with the end of the state's fiscal year. In 2022, both legislators and Governor Kathy Hochul included language in the state budget to expedite the licensing process for downstate casinos, lifting a moratorium a year early. However, despite these efforts, the New York State Gaming Commission has indicated that licenses might not be awarded until late 2025 or beyond.

“It’s just not consistent with the intent of the legislature,” Addabbo expressed. “When we voted to expedite this by one year, no one in their wildest dreams thought we would be waiting another three, four, five years. These three licenses have been sitting on a shelf, collecting dust, not creating construction jobs and billions of revenue. It’s wrong and there’s no rational reason why.”

Addabbo revealed that his decision to introduce the bill at this juncture was spurred by continuous delays from the gaming commission, which had initially indicated that the licensing process would begin by the end of last year, then January, and then the first quarter of this year.

With the commission warning of further delays last month, Addabbo felt legislative action was necessary. The bill mandates the commission to start accepting applications by July 31.

 

Addressing Land-Use and Environmental Issues

The NYSGC has been held up by complex land-use zoning issues and environmental studies that prospective bidders need to resolve. Addabbo acknowledged this, but insisted on starting the application process while these issues are being worked out.

“Hopefully it will spur a conversation. At every step along the way for the downstate license, we tried to work with them. People got to start asking the question why. If it’s a land-use issue, let’s get the process started while we work on the land-use issue,” he said. Addabbo’s bill allows winning bidders two years post-licensing to resolve land-use issues.

The delay in downstate casino licensing has also had a ripple effect on the push to legalize online casinos in New York. Bhav Tibrewal, political director for the New York Hotel and Gaming Trades Council, has previously expressed opposition to online casinos while the downstate process is ongoing. However, Addabbo believes that expediting the downstate casinos could pave the way for future online casino legalization.

“For those who are out there saying we can’t even discuss iGaming until the downstate licenses are done, this will help a little bit. But I would still push for iGaming even before awarding the downstate licenses,” Addabbo said.

A month ago, Addabbo hoped to have a conversation with Hotel Trades Council President Rich Maroko regarding iGaming. While that discussion has yet to happen, Addabbo remains hopeful for union support on expediting the casino licenses.

“I would hope that Hotel Trades would be on the same page with this bill because they want these union jobs post-construction. This could be an icebreaker with them,” he added.

Assemblyman Gary Pretlow has introduced a companion bill, A10338, in the New York Assembly. Addabbo sees no reason why any legislator would oppose the bill, as it aligns with the previous intent to expedite the licensing process.

“All we’re doing is expediting the process by putting in the time frames. What would be the argument against doing something they already voted on?” Addabbo questioned.

Despite this, passing the legislation is expected to be challenging, with some stakeholders potentially opposing the bill to gain more time for their bids. As the session winds down, Addabbo hopes to include his outstanding gaming bills in the final omnibus package, colloquially known as the “big ugly.”

“They call it the big ugly at the end because it has everything in it. It’s a big, ugly bill. I’m not totally optimistic about getting this in there but I’ve seen things happen before,” Addabbo admitted.

However, Governor Hochul's support remains uncertain, as she has thus far trusted the gaming commission's timeline. Addabbo urges the media to scrutinize the delays if the governor does not back the bill.

“If there is no support from the governor’s administration for this bill, I believe the media needs to start asking why there is such a delay,” Addabbo said. “We did four casinos back in 2013-14 in a fraction of the time we can’t even do three right now. That’s embarrassing.”

Regardless of the outcome this session, Addabbo is committed to continuing the push next year.

“We introduced the bill and highlighted the need to do this. If the bill doesn’t move, you got to ask why. We push as much as we can. If not, we try for next year’s budget.”

Conclusion

As the New York legislative session draws to a close, Senator Joe Addabbo remains determined to expedite the downstate casino licensing process. With significant economic and employment benefits at stake, Addabbo's push underscores the broader challenges and complexities of advancing gaming legislation in New York.

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