Posted on: March 15, 2022, 06:18h.
Last updated on: March 15, 2022, 06:19h.
A key step for expanded gaming in New York took place on Monday as both houses of the New York legislature unveiled their budget proposals. Lawmakers from both the Assembly and the Senate will now work with the Hochul Administration to determine if downstate casinos will be expedited and additional sports betting licenses will be awarded.
The Senate version of the budget includes authorizing casino licenses, with the fee for each license set at a minimum of $1 billion.
State Sen. Joseph Addabbo, D-Queens, and Assemblyman Gary Pretlow, D-Mount Vernon, have been pushing for awarding the downstate casino licenses ahead of schedule to help the region’s hospitality and construction industries rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic. Both men chair their chambers’ committees on gaming.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul also included the state’s three final casino licenses in her budget plan earlier this year.
The legislature’s budget conference committee met for the first time on Monday evening. Under the New York state Constitution, lawmakers are required to pass the budget by April 1. That’s the start of the 2022-23 fiscal year.
On-time passage does not always happen. That was the case last year when the COVID-19 pandemic extended some negotiations for a week.
Legislative leaders, though, have expressed confidence that won’t happen again this year.
“By and large, the Assembly and Senate majorities appear to be rowing in the same direction when it comes to responding to the executive budget,” Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said at the conference committee meeting.
Senate Plan Calls for Casinos
According to the Senate’s budget resolution, the casino licensing provision would require local approval for a site.
Both Addabbo and Pretlow have expressed an interest in seeing Resorts World New York City in Queens and Empire City Casino, an MGM Resorts International property in Yonkers just north of New York City, at least receive some preference when it comes to the application process. Both currently operate as video lottery terminal facilities at area racetracks, and as such they cannot offer live table games or Las Vegas-style Class III slot machines.
Should both existing venues win casino licenses, that would leave one license available for Long Island, New York City, and New York’s northern suburbs. Competition for a license in the nation’s largest metropolis is expected to be fierce. Las Vegas Sands, Hard Rock International, Bally’s Corp., and others are the companies likely to bid for a license.
While the Assembly’s budget proposal does not include the casino language, it should not be considered a major issue at this point since it’s been considered a priority by the administration.
Both Budgets Increase Online Sports Betting Licenses
Both the Assembly and Senate budget plans have proposals to expand online sports betting beyond the current nine operators that were approved last year by the New York State Gaming Commission.
Under the Senate’s proposal, the commission would hold a second competitive bid process and award between two and five more licenses by Jan. 31, 2023. The proposal also calls for at least 15 percent of the scoring criteria to take into consideration corporate jobs for women, minorities, and service-disabled veterans as well as minority ownership.
After previously considering a $50 million licensing fee for the new operators, the Senate’s budget proposal now calls for those selected to pay a $10 million.
The Assembly’s budget proposal differs slightly. It, too, calls for the Gaming Commission to launch a second round of competitive bidding that would start no later than July 1, but rather than cap the award between two and five, the Assembly wants up to seven more operators.
The Assembly also wants the Gaming Commission to set a benchmark of awarding 30 percent of the mobile licenses to businesses with a minority interest.
Both chambers’ language would seemingly open the door for Fanatics to get serious preference considering that rap mogul and entrepreneur Jay-Z is part of the investment team.
Assembly leaders did not include any language about licensing fees.
Gone also from both bills is any discussion of tax rates. Currently, the state taxes gross gaming revenues at 51 percent.