Opinion: New York can’t afford to turn down $1 billion a year

Legalizing mobile sports betting brought the state nearly $1 billion. Legalizing online gambling and the online state lottery could bring in another $1 billion.

A LinkNYC kiosk shows the Mega Millions and Powerball lottery grand prizes on July 19, 2023.

A LinkNYC kiosk shows the Mega Millions and Powerball lottery grand prizes on July 19, 2023. Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

In 2021, as the pandemic raged through New York, the economic future of our state was uncertain. The state Legislature understood that cutting funding to programming and education was not an option, so we had to get creative. As chairmen of the Senate and Assembly Committees that oversee gaming, we had been long-time advocates for the legalization of mobile sports betting because we believed it would be a much-needed economic boon for New York at a time when we desperately needed it. 

We were proven correct – far beyond even our own expectations. In its first year, mobile sports betting brought in nearly $1 billion in tax revenue – more than any other state – almost all of which has been earmarked for education aid and sports programs for underserved kids.

By all accounts, mobile sports betting in New York was, and continues to be, a tremendous success. 

As we prepare to enter a new legislative session with COVID-era funding from the federal government expiring, we face a looming budget deficit of great proportions. The state comptroller has pegged the deficit at $4.3 billion for next year and $8 billion for 2025. Solving it will require many difficult choices, but a good first step to beat the odds is right in front of us: we can double the substantial revenue we get from mobile sports betting through the legalization of iGaming (online gambling) and iLottery (online state lottery).

We are working on legislation to authorize iGaming and iLottery in New York, and we are optimistic that this session, we can turn it into law. The bill uses the same framework in place for mobile sports betting, allowing consumers to safely play in a legal and regulated market while generating a projected $1 billion annually for New York, above and beyond what the state already receives from mobile sports betting.

We would hardly be the first state to legalize iGaming or iLottery. Neighboring states, – including New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania – already offer iGaming, and Illinois, Michigan and New Hampshire are among the states that offer iLottery. All reports indicate that these states are seeing a net increase in tax revenue from these activities with no detrimental effects on brick-and-mortar businesses such as casinos and convenience stores that sell lottery tickets.  

Legalizing iGaming and iLottery is also better for consumers. As with mobile sports betting, a legal mobile gaming market allows us to prohibit underage players from accessing gaming platforms and provide resources and support for problem gaming – something the illegal market will never do. 

At a time of fiscal distress for our state, we cannot continue to allow hundreds of millions of dollars to be funneled into neighboring states or into the pockets of disreputable companies – particularly when those funds could be used to further bolster funding for public schools or other worthy services. 

Now is the time for New York to invest in opportunities that will allow for big economic growth down the road, something we can hardly turn away from as the state faces an impending deficit.

Joseph Addabbo Jr. is a state senator representing Queens and the chair of the Senate Committee on Racing, Gaming and Wagering. J. Gary Pretlow is an Assembly member representing Mount Vernon and Yonkers and the chair of the Assembly Committee on Racing and Wagering.

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