As New York Misses Budget Deadline, Where Gambling Measures Stand

Action on three downstate casinos is more likely than the expansion of mobile sports betting
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As New York leaders blew through a constitutionally mandated April 1 deadline for the state budget, perhaps pushing the discussions to early next week, two key gambling measures hung in the balance.

“We are getting closer to agreement, with consensus on major policy items,” New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said in a general budget statement. “New Yorkers should know that progress is being made and that we will put in the time it takes to reach an agreement that delivers for them and moves our state forward.”

Here’s where the gambling matters under discussion stand after the sides couldn’t reach agreement by Friday morning:

Three new downstate casinos

Energized by the $160.4 million in new taxes generated from mobile sports gambling since it launched less than three months ago, per the latest gaming commission report, state officials are hoping to clear the way for three new downstate casinos.

Senate Democrats are hoping for an even bigger short-term tax windfall from the casinos than from online sports gambling by targeting a $1 billion license fee for the New York-city area casinos. Two of the likeliest spots for the casinos are at currently existing racinos: MGM’s Empire City at Yonkers Raceway and Genting’s Resorts World at Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens.

The racinos currently offer only computerized gaming but would be cleared to offer in-person table games and poker under the emerging arrangement. Manhattan lawmakers have signaled their lack of interest in obtaining one of the casinos, so the likeliest sites seem to be the other boroughs or New York City’s suburbs.

According to a news article in the The New York Times, “With so much money at stake, many believe that the city will soon see a casino, even if it is on the edge of town …”

The issue is somewhat muddled by the push for an $850 million appropriation to help build a new stadium for the Buffalo Bills. Hochul said this week that about half of that money would come from revenue recently paid to the state by the Seneca Nation, which operates three of the four existing casinos in New York state, all of which are upstate. Hochul’s statement angered Seneca leaders, who called the use of such funds for the Bills’ stadium part of a “long history of mistreatment and taking advantage of Native people.”

While it’s complicated, many political observers expect the three downstate casinos to make this budget.

Expansion of mobile sports gambling

Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow was the first to introduce a bill to expand the number of authorized mobile sportsbooks from nine to at least 14 by next January, and Sen. Joe Addabbo quickly crafted a companion bill for the Senate. The expansion has faced some resistance, however, since it would trigger a drop in the 51% tax rate that has allowed New York to reap such a windfall in such a short amount of time and could lead to a dip, at least short term, in tax revenue.

Most observers consider the expansion too complicated and contentious to be part of the new budget.

Latest mobile numbers dip

Meanwhile, the second week of March Madness didn’t seem to captivate New York gamblers as much as the first. The state’s eight active mobile sportsbooks reported $327.8 million in handle for the week that ended March 27, the lowest full weekly total since the Jan. 8 launch. The gross gaming revenue of $13.9 million also was a new low.

FanDuel, which led the market for the eighth straight week, reported $133.1 million in handle and revenue of $9.5 million. The No. 2 operator in the state, DraftKings, reported a handle of $83 million and revenue of $1.9 million. Caesars, the No. 3 book, reported $57.9 million in handle and $2.3 million in revenue, while No. 4 BetMGM said it had $36.4 million in handle and lost $432,577 to Empire State sports gamblers.

Photo: Kelly Marsh/USA TODAY

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