NY State legislators continue to purse the legalization of online gambling with the S-17 Bill. Will they succeed?

The debate over a bill which will see New York legalize online and mobile gambling has been rumbling on for almost 6 years now. Unperturbed by concerns and delays however state legislators have continued to push forward in convincing the Assembly to legalize online gambling, and it is being widely reported that we can expect to see a decision made in the coming months.

 

Slow Moving Parts

State Senator Jospeh Addabbo, the man who sponsored the S-17 bill which was first introduced in January 2019, the latest in a series of attempts made to lift restrictions placed on the online gaming industry in the state.

We reported back in April that any decision on this bill would be stalled following the State Gaming Commission’s decision to extend the deadline of a study which was to be carried out, to ascertain whether or not revenue projections for online gambling were accurate.

Regardless of the fact that the findings of the study are yet to be delivered, Sen. Addabbo recently spoke to Legal Sports Report and said that he remains “confident” that some progress may still be made this year.

Despite support from both sides on this, Governor Andrew Cuomo and Speaker Carl Heastie have blocked previous efforts to get any bill looking to legalize online gambling passed, but many now believe that the position of key stakeholders in the Assembly has softened. As we covered in this piece, New Yorkers want to be able to mobile bet like their NJ neighbors, so is this the bill which is going to pass and allow them to?

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Financial Incentive for the S-17 Bill

We reported last month that the closure of casinos and other businesses has had an enormous impact on the economy in New York, and even prior to the events of 2020 the state wasn’t in greatest economic shape. This is what formed the basis for the groundswell of support for this bill to legalize online gambling. The validity of claims regarding large revenues which the state could make thanks to the passing of the S-17 bill is critical to this decision, and could play a major role in helping the state close its gaping budget deficit.

Beyond the taxation value which the passing this bill would bring to the state, there is also a fee of $12 million which casinos would have to pay before they can offer online gambling in the state. Sen. Addabbo and Assemblyman Gary Pretlow are confident that this will see an initial raising of between $500 million and $700 million, having held hearings with some of the nation’s biggest casinos if the S-17 bill is passed.

 

Reduction of Cuts

Much of the reason for the softening of stances with regards to the S-17 bill is the state’s financial woes and at a time when cuts to key services are being considered, passing a bill which could raise funds, quickly, is a carrot which is being dangled at the right time. Pretlow himself has said as much when discussing his own conversation with colleagues stating “they indicated that it will probably be put in the revenue package … whenever that is’.

 

Voting Power

Regardless of the confidence shown by Addabbo and Pretlow, the decision on whether to pass a bill which will legalize online gambling is going to be a close call. Pretlow claims to have as many as 86 Dems who back the bill, yet Speaker of the Assembly Carl Heastie suggests that he counted just 69 Dems backing the bill, and the S-17 bill needs 76 votes on the floor to get over the line.

On the topic of gambling, the chances of the bill’s success look to be “too close to call” and whilst the  clear benefit of a cash injection which the state so desperately needs could be enough to lure some in the assembly, there are still threats which may prevent it from passing.

We have already discussed that Gov. Cuomo is still unmoved in his position on gambling expansion, and there is also the potential of some damaging findings from the Spectrum Gaming Group, a company looking into the fiscal realities of what will happen if the state does legalize online gambling.

Another key bill which is hoping to be passed is the S-18 bill which we discussed in March. That bill  focuses solely on the legalization of online poker and may be able to get passed without requiring GOv. Cuomo’s signature. All that said, we can expect the Assembly to reconvene in the Fall, with many in both the political and gambling world seeking a decision on S-17 bill and S-18 by year’s end.

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