Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. reflected on the development of sports betting in New York and expectations for a possible legalisation of online casinos in the state.
Exclusive interview.- In an exclusive interview with Focus Gaming News, Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr., a key figure in the legalisation of sports betting in New York, reflected on the success of mobile sports betting in the state.
Beyond financial gains, he highlighted job creation and improved measures to address addiction issues and the potential for online gambling legalisation this year.
You have been one of the driving forces behind the legalisation of sports betting in New York. Two years have passed since then and the profits have been really big. What is your analysis of the performance so far? What are your expectations for gambling in New York in the coming years?
Yeah, we are pleased with the success of mobile sports betting. I have always believed that New York had tremendous potential, considering its vast fan base. Observing the numbers of New Yorkers going to neighbouring states such as New Jersey and Pennsylvania to bet, it became evident that we were losing revenue to other jurisdictions.
During the initial week and weekend of the launch in January 2022, with only four operators in place, we exceeded national records. A year later, we continued to break records, reaching approximately two billion dollars in revenue for education. This accomplishment established a robust foundation for further expansion.
As we explore options such as igaming or any other gaming expansion in New York, the success of mobile sports betting provides a solid base to build upon. We acknowledge and appreciate the opportunities it presents for future growth and development.
Apart from the profits made, in what other respects do you think it has been beneficial to legalise sports betting in the state?
Sure, various aspects beyond revenue warrant consideration. Mobile sports betting has undeniably generated employment opportunities within a specific segment. However, a primary focus of our advocacy is rooted in addressing the awareness that New Yorkers were already engaging in mobile sports betting.
Previously, if people encountered addiction or problematic gaming behaviours, assistance was challenging due to the inability to identify and reach out to those participating in other states or engaging in illegal markets.
With the implementation of regulation, particularly when New Yorkers utilize platforms within the state, we gain the capability to monitor their activities and offer assistance.
This not only applies to people facing addiction but also to those on the path to developing problematic gaming behaviours. Regulating mobile sports betting places us in a superior position to support New Yorkers comprehensively, aligning with our commitment to addressing concerns related to gaming in all its facets.
“Regulating mobile sports betting places us in a superior position to support New Yorkers comprehensively.”
Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr.
You have long been a supporter of responsible gambling and the development of legal gambling. How did you manage to find the right balance in NY to advocate for the legalisation of sports betting and at the same time to call for responsible gambling?
Once again, let’s focus on the facts – the reality is that New Yorkers have been engaging in this activity for some time. Trying to eliminate it within New York proved challenging, as New Yorkers are resourceful and always find a way.
Over the past two years, they were already participating, whether it was in neighbouring states like New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, or even in the illegal market. They had established patterns and were comfortable with their chosen methods.
Introducing our product in New York meant asking them to change their habits, and that presented a significant challenge. Despite having a strong product, we needed to convince New Yorkers to shift from what they were accustomed to. New Yorkers, being savvy consumers, could easily revert to their familiar practices if not properly addressed.
So that is why I am really proud of the product we have here in New York. It is gratifying that New Yorkers have chosen to stay with the New York platform, demonstrating its effectiveness.
As we navigate gaming expansion in New York, maintaining a balance is crucial. We must consider both the desire for expansion and the imperative of creating a safe environment. Furthermore, addressing issues related to problem gaming and mental health remains a priority for the benefit of all New Yorkers.
What are your expectations for a possible legalisation of online gambling this year? Given that in recent weeks it has come to light that Governor Kathy Hochul left out of the executive budget for 2025 any forecast revenue from online casino gambling.
We possess the potential not only to address the current fiscal challenges this year but also to mitigate the worsening financial outlook for New York State in the subsequent years.
If we legislate igaming and ilottery this year, we can realise the resulting revenue next year, precisely when the state requires it the most. Even if our governor is hesitant about igaming or a lottery, I believe there might be a necessity to pursue it, considering the state’s fiscal predicament not only in the present year but also in the upcoming ones.
“If we legislate igaming and ilottery this year, we can realise the resulting revenue next year.”
Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr.
The governor’s executive budget serves as a comprehensive plan outlining her intentions and the direction she aims to take. As we progress through January, February, and March, leading up to the April 1 budget deadline, we will strategize the execution of this plan for New York.
Funding such initiatives often involves making budgetary cuts, necessitating additional revenue sources. Here, igaming and ilottery present a significant potential, with the possibility of generating over a billion dollars annually.
I remain hopeful that, in collaboration with the governor, the union, and other advocates, we can engage in discussions about implementing igaming this year. It is essential to act promptly to realize the revenue benefits starting from next year.
There has also been some uproar in recent weeks following the appointment of Marissa Shorenstein to the state board that regulates the industry. What are your views on this?
The legislature doesn’t have a direct role in the appointment process; that falls under the purview of the government administration. I refrain from commenting on such matters and focus on diligently performing my duties.
It’s crucial to concentrate on my responsibilities and ensure their proper execution rather than being preoccupied with how others conduct their roles. While I don’t comment on appointments, I am eager to collaborate with the governor and the gaming commission to advance gaming expansion in New York securely and responsibly.
Finally, there remain a few states that have not yet legalised sports betting. Based on your experience, why do you think they should move forward in that position?
The dynamic nature of each day demands a careful examination of the fiscal situation. In the case of New York, the decision to embrace mobile sports betting came amid a period when our governor, initially hesitant, recognized the pressing financial challenges exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. With a substantial deficit of approximately six billion dollars due to the pandemic, the need for a sustainable and significant revenue source became imperative.
Irrespective of the fiscal circumstances, a state’s willingness to assist its residents engaged in a particular activity, even if done unsafely, prompts the consideration of regulation. This regulatory approach not only places the state in a better position to address mental health and addiction issues but also aims to retain revenue within the state.
If residents are spending money on activities in neighbouring states, it becomes essential to prevent such outflows, ensuring that the state’s revenue stays local and contributes to supporting its residents. This consideration applies not only to mobile sports betting but also to potential expansions like igaming.