Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. Faces Primary Challengers for the First Time — What it Means for NY Online Casinos

Early voting for New York’s Aug. 23 primary started Saturday, and the future of regulated gambling in New York is something to keep an eye on. 

State Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr., the Chair of the Racing, Gaming, and Wagering Committee is facing challengers in the Democratic Primaries for the first time since he was elected in 2008. Addabbo was instrumental in getting NY sports betting legalized, and he is a critical player in licensing three downstate casinos and legalizing NY online casinos (iGaming). 

New York Sports Day spoke to Addabbo and his two primary challengers to grasp the potential future of regulated gambling in New York. Here’s what we learned.

How Candidates View iGaming, Sports Betting, and Regulated Gambling 

In the primary, Addabbo will be on the ballot with Japneet Singh, a young member of the local Sikh community and a passionate community activist, and Albert Baldeo, a Guyanese-American attorney with a history of running for political office.

We asked them their stance on regulated gaming in the state, iGaming, and expanding mobile sports betting.

Both challengers say they are pro-gaming and promise to support regulated gambling in the state. 

Japneet Singh

When asked about legalizing online casinos, Mr. Singh said, “I am a major proponent of gaming, and I believe it is high time that New York State catches up to its neighbors in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania. It’s high time we have New York’s gambling dollars going towards our taxes and not to other states and unregulated illegal online gambling services.” 

Singh said he also supports expanding mobile sports betting and that he would look into other ways to increase tax revenue for the community. 

“I find that the tax restrictions are slightly too strict [for mobile sports betting] and make the playing field very uneven,” said Singh. “I would not discard the good work of my predecessor. However, I am also a proponent of alternative streams of tax revenue, like finalizing the details of the MRTA (the Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act), which the incumbent voted against. I would also propose that we invest this money into mental health services.”

Albert Baldeo

Mr. Baldeo highlighted the importance of free enterprise and the financial and educational benefits of regulated gaming. 

“We support any sort of choice where people make their own decisions with their own money,” Baldeo said. “A lot of the money comes right back into communities. That is one of the driving factors of our support.”

Baldeo said he enjoys the food and games at Resorts World Casino, currently in District 15. 

“It creates jobs,” Baldeo said. “These gambling establishments create jobs that are part of the local economy. I think they’re welcomed in our neighborhoods because we’re looking to get the economy going again. We welcome the benefits and the educational inputs.”

To people against gambling? “If you don’t want to gamble, you don’t have to.”

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What Does The Future Look Like for Regulated Gambling in New York?

We also spoke with Senator Addabbo about his plans for the future should he win the State Senate seat again. In our conversation, Mr. Addabbo emphasized his experience with gaming legislation and his relationship with the Hochul administration and colleagues in the State Senate. 

His two focuses for 2023? Reintroducing iGaming and improving mobile sports betting. 

Reintroducing Online Casinos, or “iGaming”

“Under the previous administration, with Cuomo, you couldn’t even talk about [iGaming] – but now under Hochul, it’s on the table, and we’re moving in a positive direction,” Addabbo said. 

Addabbo submitted legislation this year to legalize iGaming in New York. The bill didn’t make it out of committee, but Addabbo has promised to bring it up again in the 2023 budget process.

“It is a huge endeavor in terms of educational funds and revenue for the state even more so than mobile sports betting,” Addabbo said. “We talk of it in terms of fiscal benefits, so it must be in the budget, in my opinion.”

Improvements to Mobile Sports Betting

On mobile sports betting, Addabbo emphasized, “It’s not enough to say we did it. We need to keep improving it. We also need to consider offering what other states don’t offer on mobile apps, maybe NASCAR, for example.”

What about player futures betting, like the NFL Draft, NBA MVP, or other awards? 

“We heard from a lot of people about how they couldn’t bet on the draft,” Addabbo said. “It got on my radar, so that’s enough to make it a conversation to bring to the legislative session.” 

Addabbo also said – and his Democratic challengers agree – that a focus needs to be on expanding the number of mobile sports betting operators. New York currently has nine, though Addabbo says the original bill that he and Assembly member Gary Pretlow presented proposed between 14-21. 

“The Cuomo Administration wanted to do just two,” Addabbo said. “I said, ‘Are you kidding Me?’ We got it up to nine, but by increasing the number, it would be a better product.”

As challenger Singh pointed out, though, the tax rate of 51% makes it difficult for smaller operators to get a foothold in New York. Addabbo says that should be addressed, though there is no current legislation. 

“If we can increase operators, decrease tax rate, and keep our revenue for education and services the same, we should be doing that,” Addabbo said.

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Why Is Addabbo Facing Challengers?

Because of recent redistricting, Addabbo’s district lines changed, and he now represents a large minority population. 

Queens’ District 15 used to stretch in a shape like a sailboat all the way from Rockaway Beach up into Maspeth. Now it’s far more compact after dropping the Rockaways and Howard Beach – predominantly white neighborhoods – and adding on Richmond Hill, which has a large South Asian and Sikh population. Addabbo technically doesn’t live in the district anymore and says he has moved in with his mother to stay inside district lines. 

The two challengers say they better represent the new “majority-minority” makeup of District 15. 

Baldeo is a Guyanese-American attorney from Richmond Hill. He has run for several political offices and is an immigration lawyer. 

Singh is the child of immigrant parents from Punjab, India, and brings a younger voice to the State Senate race. He has experience on community boards and as a taxi driver.

Early voting is ongoing, and the primary will occur on Aug. 23.

AP Photo/Mike Groll

About the Author

Hannah Vanbiber

Hannah Vanbiber is one of our writers for NY Sports Day. She started her journalism career in Chattanooga, Tennessee, as a reporter covering local sports, entertainment, and business in the East Tennessee area. She is now a full-time freelance writer, editor, and reporter, covering women’s sports and sports betting in the New York metropolitan area.

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