Lawmaker Wants Downstate Casino Licenses in New York Sooner Rather Than Later

profile image of Dave Grendzynski
People play gaming machines inside the Tropicana Las Vegas. David Becker/Getty Images/AFP

Senator Joe Addabbo hopes to expedite downstate New York casino licenses with bill S9673. The downstate area includes New York City, Long Island, Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties.

Despite its late introduction, Addabbo is determined to pass the legislation before the New York legislature adjourns on June 6.

“I hope it’s realistic. This is not for show. I don’t want it to be for show. Some of my colleagues have asked why we haven’t realized at least the licensing fees,” Addabbo told PlayUSA. “Hopefully, we can do this. The gaming commission could hold onto these licenses for years and that would be OK because there’s no timeline. So let’s give them a timeline.”

Bill Puts a Timeline on the Process

Addabbo’s bill requires the New York State Gaming Commission to award up to three casino licenses in and around New York City by March 31, 2025, which coincides with the end of the state’s fiscal year.

“All we’re doing is expediting the process by putting in the time frames. What would be the argument against doing something they already voted on? I would hope there would be no opponents. As a legislator, you have to be frustrated to vote to expedite something by one year and not see it happen for another three, four, five years.”

The bill was introduced on May 17 and referred to the Racing, Gaming, and Wagering Committee.

What Does The Bill Call For?

If the bill becomes law, gambling regulators would award three casino licenses to operators in the downstate area. Although the official bidding process has not yet opened, there are already 11 presumed applicants for these licenses.  

The hope was that state officials would swiftly complete the review process, allowing the Empire State to enjoy the benefits of creating thousands of new jobs and generating millions in tax revenue.

But the process has been slow. So, Addabbo co-sponsored S9673 with Sen. Kevin Parker. It reads “The revised legislation is designed to prevent stagnation and ensure that the licensing process moves forward efficiently, supporting the state’s goals of economic enhancement through the gaming industry. This change is not only vital for meeting the state’s developmental timelines but also crucial for maintaining investor confidence and community engagement in the planned gaming projects.”

Casino Business Already Big in Big Apple

If you’re wondering why Addabato is making the hard sell, these stats from PlayNY might help.

The United States gambling industry benefits significantly from the greater New York City region. Despite popular assumptions linking it to New York sports betting, the real driving force behind its prominence lies elsewhere. In recent years, New York has become the largest US market in terms of total handle, operator revenue, and generated taxes, even though sports betting isn’t the primary factor contributing to this success.

In 2023, the American Gaming Association (AGA) reported that Resorts World New York City reclaimed its position as the highest-grossing commercial gaming property outside Nevada. The venue generated over $900 million in revenue, representing a year-on-year improvement of more than 20%. 

Meanwhile, Empire City Casino ranked sixth on the same list, trailing behind mega resorts in Maryland, the Wynn-backed property in Massachusetts, and Atlantic City’s best-performing casino. 

The Queens/Yonkers region emerged as the sixth-largest gambling market in the country, generating more than $1.5 billion in annual revenue. Only the Las Vegas Strip, Atlantic City, Chicagoland, Baltimore-Washington DC, and the Gulf Coast regions surpassed it in gambling revenue, based on combined slot machine, table game, and retail sportsbook revenue.

Looking for More Growth

Resorts World NYC and Empire City stand to expand upon their current prosperity if they secure the coveted downstate casino licenses. These licenses would likely pave the way for offering online casinos in New York once lawmakers legalize iGaming. The two properties would also be the easiest to convert into fully integrated casino resorts.

It’s also why racinos in Queens (Resorts World NYC) and Yonkers (Empire City) are considered frontrunners.

Some Casinos Getting Frustrated

Recently, representatives from several gaming companies have voiced their disappointment in the extended downstate licensing process. Patrick Dumont, president and chief operating officer for Las Vegas Sands, expressed his dissatisfaction. Bill Hornbuckle, CEO and president of MGM Resorts International emphasized that MGM, like other bidders, must practice patience.

However, even if legislators wish to include the bill to expedite downstate casino licenses, the governor is unlikely to approve it. Governor Kathleen Hochul, at least thus far, has placed her trust in her gaming commission to do what’s best for the downstate casinos.

We’ll wait and see.