There has been a big push in recent years to get online gambling legalized in New York, just as it is in neighboring New Jersey. New York state has had casinos for a long time and in 2013 it allowed the opening of sportsbooks in those casinos. Until now, it has looked highly unlikely that online poker and sports betting would become legal in New York; the current economic downturn may change that.
Regardless of what happens with online gambling, many in New York have certainly set their sights on rivaling its neighbors as a great gambling destination on the East coast.
The question is, is it possible that New York can become a great gambling destination like New Jersey?
The Economic Motivation Behind The Decisions
The New York legislature has got to be looking at the revenues New Jersey is bringing in now and has brought in over the last couple of years. Since allowing sports betting in 2018, the state has amassed more than $7M in revenue. Under usual conditions, this may not affect the thinking of Governor Cuomo, but following the events of 2020, it is clear these aren’t usual conditions.
Many casinos in the state are still closed. We covered the story of workers who are demanding action from the governor so they can get back to work. Why the casinos are not yet open is unclear, something we discussed in this piece.
The biggest argument for bringing casinos into New York City has been the generation of possible revenue based on high taxes. In the past, this argument has been thrown out on the basis that it will do more harm than good, and that the city and the state just haven’t needed the money. The carrot of gambling revenue now looks much bigger as the state struggles economically the following lockdown.
Multiple Proposals on the Table
Last year representatives from major gaming companies met with lawmakers in New York with proposals on how and where they could set up casinos if given the green light. Agreeing that the city would be the best place to create a hub, Aqueduct Raceway looks like the best option. This is located on the border between Queensand Long Island. It already has the infrastructure in place, thanks to the ‘racinos’ it currently boasts.
At the time, Andrew Cuomo stated that no more casino licenses would be handed out until 2023, in spite of an offer of $500M per license from the executives. That money now looks far more attractive than it did in March of last year.
The governor’s attitude is very much the same towards mobile gambling. We wrote here about how the debate had stalled in 2020. Despite some hope last month, we also discussed the constitutional difficulty of changing this law, and why it looks increasingly unlikely to happen.
The Importance of a Hub To Drive Tourism
It is not just the success of online gambling which has helped New Jersey amass such a large amount of revenue. Centering its casinos in Atlantic City has created a tourist destination around the gambling, much like Las Vegas did. This same structuring would be needed in New York if the plan was to really work.
Speaking to the NewYork Times, former Governor David Paterson believes that a casino hub could add another dimension to tourism in the Big Apple:
“I think, in an iconic city like New York, to have an iconic structure, would be another, really beautiful, tourism destination,”
New York has seen record losses this year as a result of dropped tourism. With riots raging, job losses, and a sluggish local economy, the state needs some good news.
Groundswell of Support to Create a Great Gambling Destination
In the minds of many, New York should most certainly have a great gambling destination in its arsenal. There is a huge amount of support for both this and mobile betting; relaxing the laws on these points will certainly boost the state. New York State Sen. Joseph Abbaddo declared that he was not “giving up the fight” with regards to taking on lawmakers on this topic.
The answer to the question of whether New York can become a great gambling destination like New Jersey is that it will take a long time for that to happen. Could it happen? Most certainly. This is after all New York. Will it happen? The answer to that will depend on how much money is enough to convince this governor to make the change.