At a joint public hearing organized by two New York legislators last week, the topic was the first year of legal sports betting in the state, but politicians, industry leaders, and others at the meeting couldn’t help but glance ahead to what could come next: iCasino.
The topic of legalizing slots and other casino games for mobile devices emerged throughout the nearly three-hour hearing, which was put on by Sen. Joe Addabbo and Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow, the chairmen of the two state legislative bodies’ gaming committees. During the meeting, DraftKings CEO Jason Robins and FanDuel President Christian Genetski both expressed support for legalizing iCasino in New York.
Legislators became particularly interested when a panel involving Spectrum Gaming Capital and the casino games company Light and Wonder looked directly at what New York could be missing by not having iCasino. David Isaacson, senior vice president of Spectrum, said his company’s research found that New York could generate as much as $3.1 billion in gross gaming revenue (GGR) in the first year of iCasino in the state and up to $4 billion by Year Five.
Is sports betting only the first course?
Consider for a moment that New York’s total GGR from legal sports betting in its first calendar year, 2022, was $1.36 billion. Most industry analysts viewed those record-breaking numbers as evidence that New York’s legalization efforts were a rousing success, as the state netted about $694 million in new taxes from sports betting, mostly for education.
But is sports betting just a morsel compared to what could come next?
Surrounded by regions that already have iCasino — including New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Ontario — New York has been leaking tax dollars to those states as interested gamblers cross borders to play.
“Those states have found that, while sports betting is a good appetizer, iGaming has proven to be the main course as far as revenue generation is concerned,” Glazer said. (Some people consider iGaming and iCasino to be synonymous terms, while others consider iGaming to encompass any type of online gambling, including sports betting.)
A pathway for New York to become an iCasino state has already begun to form. Addabbo promised an iCasino roundtable in coming weeks and, late Friday, Pretlow introduced Assembly Bill A3634, which would legalize iCasino in the state. A similar bill got scant attention before failing last year and Gov. Kathy Hochul made no mention of iCasino in her budget for fiscal year 2023-2024, but the ball, at the very least, has begun slowly rolling down the hill.
Legislators expect further discussion
“It’s perked a lot of interest,” Pretlow said of his efforts to legalize iCasino in New York. “That’s all I can say.”
Addabbo added a bit of context.
“Every year we don’t do iGaming in New York, there’s roughly $4 billion lost, if you think of it that way, in terms of revenue lost to another state or the illegal market,” Addabbo said. “I’m just saying, if we want to stop the proliferation of money to another state or an illegal market and recognize that money here for education, I would think that New York should do something, but that’s a topic for another day, I guess.”
Adding to the legislators’ level of interest was testimony provided by Spectrum and Glazer that suggests iCasino actually augments the business of land-based casinos rather than cannibalizing it, as sometimes happens with sports betting. That’s particularly apt at the moment, as the state works through the lengthy process of adding three land-based casinos in the New York City area to the four that already exist upstate.
“Amazon is often seen as pushing out the small guys. I understand that, but iGaming couldn’t be more different,” Glazer said. “In every instance we know of, iGaming has driven additional revenue growth and job growth at land-based casinos. That’s the experience of every state.”
Pretlow’s latest bill may not be the one that ultimately ushers iCasino into New York, but many people think it’s only a matter of time. The numbers might simply prove too convincing to pass up.