New York Gaming Proposals Held up by State Budget Talks

View of New York City with poker hand and Hard Rock logo to the right

New Yorkers will have to wait at least a little bit to determine if two major gaming motions have passed. Both downstate casinos and expanded sports betting options could be in play this year. However, the Empire State’s budget has been delayed.

The original deadline to pass a budget for the new fiscal year was last Friday. However, multiple issues have prevented the budget from being passed in time. This is not an unusual case in New York. Last year, lawmakers were also late in passing the fiscal year budget.

There are two major pieces of gaming issues that could be included in this year’s budget. One would allow for the final three casino licenses to be issued in the state. The second would allow more sports betting operators to operate in New York. Both measures could drastically improve New York state’s gaming revenue. However, neither issue seems to be the cause of the delay.

Downstate NY Casinos Could Be Part of the New Budget

The budget delay is preventing two gaming measures from potentially passing. Of the two, the more impactful measure is the one involving the option for new casino licenses. Currently, there are four commercial casinos in New York. If passed, the remaining three licenses would be able to be distributed.

New Yorkers voted in 2013 to allow commercial gaming. Casinos in upstate New York were awarded a seven-year head start on gaming operations. The remaining three licenses were not supposed to be distributed until 2023. However, the economic impact of the pandemic led to lawmakers pushing for an earlier start.

Many proponents, including the mayor of NYC, hope at least two of the licenses are earmarked for the Big Apple. According to Mayor Eric Adams, two casinos in New York City would create 16,000 new jobs. It would also help industries such as hospitality and construction recover from the effects of the pandemic.

The measure is expected to pass. Both the Governor’s and Senate’s proposals included a call for the three licenses. The Assembly’s budget did not, but there have been talks to add it in.

More New York Sportsbooks Could Be Coming Soon

The second gaming measure would allow for a massive expansion in legal New York sportsbooks. Currently, there are eight approved sports betting operators in the Empire State. However, only seven of them have launched so far.

Now, gaming proponents are pushing for an additional seven sports betting licenses to be distributed. If passed, it would bring the total number of potential legal New York sportsbooks to 16. The proposal is currently in both the Assembly’s and the Senate’s budgets. However, there could still be more changes made before the budget passes.

One such change would be to lower the tax rate. Currently, New York sportsbooks are taxed at a rate of 51%. Proponents of the measure have suggested lowering the rate if it makes fiscal sense for New York.

What Is Delaying New York’s New Budget?

New gaming legislation has struggled to be passed in other states. However, that does not appear to be the root of the budget problems in New York. Instead, the issues seemingly stem from two distinct parts of the budget.

The first issue that is likely causing the budget delay is bail reform. New York Governor Kathy Hochul’s plan to roll back 2019 bail reform laws has upset many Democratic lawmakers. Gov. Hochul claims the changes are designed to bolster public safety. However, many prominent New York Democrats have spoken out against Gov. Hochul’s plan.

Another key issue that could be delaying New York’s new fiscal budget is the funding for the Bills’ new stadium. State officials reached an agreement with the NFL team to help pay for a new stadium. New York agreed to put $600 million toward the project. Erie County also plans to pay an additional $250 million. Buffalo’s new stadium is projected to cost $1.4 billion.

Conclusion

Once again, New York heads into a new fiscal year without an approved budget in place. This time around, the budget issues are causing a delay in two major gaming measures. Gaming proponents have been lobbying for more casino and sports betting licenses to become available.

Both measures are likely to pass. However, other major budget issues need to be addressed first. Namely, lawmakers must reach an agreement on new bail reform measures. Also, they need to find funding for New York’s portion of the cost of the new Buffalo Bills stadium.