It hasn't even been a full year, but it's clear sports betting in New York is already a rousing success. Many, in fact, are wondering whether The Big Apple can top how well they're doing now. As it turns out, the answer may lie with New York Governor Kathy Hochul.
Since taking office a short while ago, she has proven to be a major ally for the gaming industry. Not only did she move quickly to set up the state's sports betting launch in 2022, but New York became a multi-billion dollar sports betting market per month under her watch. And now, she's toiling with the idea of expanding the iGaming industry throughout the state.
For anyone new to the "iGaming" term, here's the skinny: iGaming is an online wager placed on the outcome of any event. It could be a sporting competition, an election, a pop-culture awards, casino-style gaming or something else. While online sports betting is currently legal inside The Big Apple, the New York Gaming Commission doesn't believe the market has lived up to its full potential just yet. They have, in turn, made it clear they intend to work with New York Governor Kathy Hochul on expanding their imprint.
“I’m very happy for my team up in Albany because we get to work with an administration that has been very open policy-wise to gaming expansion in a very safe way,” New York Senate Gaming Committee chair Joe Addabbo told Gaming Today after the November elections. "Now our big push is trying to get iGaming as part of Hochul’s executive budget or certainly in the budget, given it will have a big fiscal impact there.”
The excitement in Addabbo's quote is palpable. Hochul's challenger in the November election, Republican Lee Zeldman, was considered much less of an ally to the iGaming industry. The state is more likely to make meaningful changes following Hochul's victory. But what might those changes be?
Is The New York Governor Bringing Casinos to NYC?
The idea of casinos in New York City almost seems laughable. The hustle and bustle on the streets coupled with the close proximity of buildings and general crowds has long rendered the concept difficult to grasp. And for the most part, the state has not pushed the issue. New York already has 12 land-based casinos and racinos overseen by the Gaming Commission, in addition to 15 tribal casinos, scattered throughout the region.
None of those operations, however, are located in New York City itself. And Governor Kathy Hochul is looking to fix that.
Throughout parts of 2022, Hochul worked with Addabbo and other state lawmakers to authorize licensing of three New York City-area commercial casinos through the one-year state budget process. Permits for the three casinos are expected to be issued during the first part of 2023. And depending on how long the bidding and building processes take, Hochul hasn't ruled out a grand opening for at least one New York City Casino that same year.
Are More iGaming Options Coming to the State of New York?
Once the New York City casinos officially open up, Hochul and other lawmakers are expected to push for them to be able to offer online betting options. Whether they will be successful remains to be seen.
The state has so far resisted making iGaming the standard for casinos. But the New York governor and her supporters argue that the exclusion is hypocritical when so many online sports betting sites also offer online casino gaming.
Hochul and others have a point. Many of the sites from our reviews of the top online sportsbooks have casino sections as part of their business offerings. And if sportsbooks can offer casino gaming, why shouldn't casinos be allowed to offer their own product online?
Not all lawmakers are convinced, though. Opponents of additional iGaming options argue the state risks overexposing their residents to gambling addictions. But Hochul's camp has pointed out that prohibiting certain forms of iGaming doesn't actually stop them. As Addabbo also told Gaming Today:
“We make the rational argument that New Yorkers are probably doing iGaming in an unsafe, unregulated way or going to another state and, once again, like mobile sports betting, we’re losing those dollars...So we’re trying to make the rational argument that we should consider iGaming in New York for next year’s budget.”
iGaming in New York Has More Hurdles to Clear
Most tend to agree that Governor Kathy Hochul has two firm legs to stand on. New York legalized sports betting in part to capitalize on a revenue stream that already existed but wasn't officially taxed. Expanding iGaming packages follows a similar line of thinking.
Still, even Hochul has recognized the potential for oversaturation and the ill effects it can have on tribal and state operations. Additional iGaming options will invariably require more of a reliance on corporations. That, by extension, increases the competition for land-based casinos run by both the state and New York's federally recognized tribes.
This issue is not without a potential solution. Hochul has bandied about the idea of limiting the number of online casino licenses they hand out. The preliminary number being discussed is 14, with a two-app limit per commercial casino. Others have proposed a one-app limit. Some are pushing for a certain number of partnerships with land-based casinos to be established in order for corporations to receive a New York iGaming license.
Nothing is written in stone right now. But given how successful New York sports betting has become, along with how committed Kathy Hochul seems to expanding the iGaming imprint, our guess is The Big Apple's online gambling market will look a lot different by 2024.
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