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Home » American Gambling Awards Finalists: Policymaker of the Year

American Gambling Awards Finalists: Policymaker of the Year

The American Gambling Awards celebrate the outstanding work of the companies, organizations, executives and influencers working to responsibly grow the regulated online American casino and sports betting market.

The winners will be announced the week of Nov. 14. Leading up to those announcements, Gambling.com will profile the finalists.

Here are the finalists for Policymaker of the Year.

State Sen. Joseph Addabbo, New York

As chairman of the New York state Senate Committee on Racing, Gaming and Wagering, Sen. Joseph Addabbo has guided gaming expansion in the Empire State to record heights, including a highly successful mobile sports betting program. New York is the most populated state in the country with legal mobile sports wagering. 

Success with mobile wagering, launched in January, has resulted in a multi-million-dollar windfall in tax revenue for elementary and secondary education and grants for youth sports programming. This revenue also benefits problem gambling prevention, treatment, and recovery services.

Addabbo, a Democrat from Queens, now is positioning the state to legalize iGaming, possibly during the 2023 legislative session. He also supports the licensing of three full downstate commercial casinos. One of these licenses could go to Resorts World New York in his home district, providing jobs and boosting the local economy. 

This attorney and former New York City councilman, whose father and namesake served in Congress for 25 years, is among the state’s most prominent advocates for legal, regulated and safe gaming, and for providing real assistance to problem gamblers.

State Sen. Eric Lesser, Massachusetts

State Sen. Eric Lesser, a Democrat from Londmeadow in the western part of the state, is a Harvard graduate and former White House aide in the Obama administration. He also was a 2022 candidate for lieutenant governor, and while unsuccessful in that effort, distinguished himself as a dynamic new leader in the Bay State.

His leadership abilities were evident in his skill at helping steer a sports betting measure to a successful vote at the Legislature. 

In 2020, Lesser began working on sports betting legislation and later served on a six-member conference committee at the Capitol in Boston, hammering out a measure that ultimately became law. 

Now, these noteworthy efforts are about to pay off. 

Sports wagering is slated to begin at casino sportsbooks in Massachusetts in January and on mobile apps in March. This will allow bettors to place wagers in-person at sportsbooks in time for the Feb. 12, 2023, Super Bowl and on mobile apps by the time the March Madness NCAA basketball tournaments tip off.

Because of his key role in legalizing sports betting in Massachusetts, the state is likely to be among the leaders in sports betting revenue.

Beyond that, as Lesser noted, sports betting will create jobs in Massachusetts and capture tax revenue now going to other states.

State Sen. Jeff Longbine, Kansas

A former college football player and hard-working auto dealer, Kansas state Sen. Jeff Longbine knows how to bring people together to achieve a common goal.

At the statehouse in Topeka, Longbine was among the first to recognize the benefits of legalizing sports betting and became one of its chief architects. 

By taking illegal sports wagering out of the shadows and transforming it into a regulated industry, legal sports betting would pump much-need revenue into state coffers for programs that benefit all Kansans, the senator noted.

“It certainly has put us in a position where we can establish sports gaming in Kansas and pull wagers from the black market — offshore, unregulated, untaxed market — bringing Kansas under a regulated state market,” Longbine said.

Working with other sports betting advocates, this well-respected Republican from Emporia helped put Kansas in a position to launch sports betting in the state.

After Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly signed the bill in May to legalize mobile and retail sports wagering, the first legal bets were placed on Sept. 1, with plenty of time to spare before the NFL — and local favorite Kansas City Chiefs — kicked off the regular season later that month.

Longbine’s tireless efforts are credited with bringing sports betting across the finish line in a short period of time without a hitch.

Sen. Jim Perry and Rep. Jason Saine, North Carolina 

With its passion for basketball, auto racing and more, North Carolina could be expected to generate millions of dollars in legal sports betting revenue.

Two Republican legislators, state Sen. Jim Perry and Rep. Jason Saine, are working hard to make that happen in the nation’s ninth most-populated state, with about 10.5 million residents.

Sports betting proponents have noted that North Carolinians already are betting illegally on apps based offshore, or are traveling out of state to place bets. Sports wagering is legal in two of North Carolina’s next-door neighbors, Virginia and Tennessee.

Whether this betting is happening offshore at unregulated sites or out of state, North Carolina is losing revenue for education and other needs, proponents contend.

“People are doing this and doing it right now illegally,” Saine said.

During the session that ended last summer, the effort by Perry and Saine to win approval for sports betting was shot down by a thin margin. This occurred despite support from the state’s professional sports teams, the NFL’s Carolina Panthers, NBA’s Charlotte Hornets and NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes 

Now the two lawmakers are ready to try again. Both were re-elected on Nov. 8 in uncontested races. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, who has indicated he would sign a sports betting bill, was not up for re-election this year.

That means important pieces are in place to legalize sports betting at the 2023 legislative session, bringing North Carolina on equal competitive footing with neighboring states.

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