Proverbs 13:11: “Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.”
In the name of closing budget gaps, New York lawmakers are considering legalizing online casino gambling, or iGaming. If iGaming were legalized, games such as roulette, blackjack, poker, and the like could be played from any mobile device. According to Sen. Joe Addabbo (D-Queens), iGaming proceeds would be taxed at 30.5%, yielding an estimated $1 billion in state tax revenue in the first year.
Gambling can be highly addictive. This is especially true when digital devices—which are designed to produce a dopamine response—are utilized for gambling. The Cleveland Clinic defines “dopamine” as “a neurotransmitter made in your brain” that “plays a role as a ‘reward center’ and in many body functions, including memory, movement, motivation, mood, attention and more.” Receiving “likes” on social media posts increases a person’s dopamine level; in fact, its impact has been likened to the dopamine release that results from illicit drug use. Gamblers experience a similar dopamine “hit.”
Legalizing iGaming would likely lead to more gambling addiction amongst New Yorkers. In addition, it would likely have a disproportionate negative impact on younger New Yorkers, some of whom already struggle with gambling addiction or with other types of digital addictions. The gambling industry is inherently predatory; it makes money off of addictive behavior.
Unfortunately, if iGaming brings more money into the state’s coffers, those in power may ignore its negative consequences. There is reason to believe that iGaming would increase tax revenue. The recent legalization of mobile sports betting spawned $729 million in tax revenue during the 2022-2023 fiscal year. According to State of Politics, the total amount of tax revenue received by the state through mobile sports betting has since doubled. Pro-gambling legislators in both parties love nothing better than finding new sources of tax revenue to feed their spending habits. They do not mind receiving campaign cash from the gambling industry, either.
When January 2024 arrives and the Legislature considers the iGaming proposal, it is important to remember that Sen. Addabbo and his allies are not asking the state to simply allow or tolerate iGaming. Rather, they are proposing to have the state promote and profit from iGaming. As New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms has said many times over the years, the state of New York should never promote or profit from a predatory enterprise.