New York Casinos, Gambling, and Law Regulations: An Overview

The association between New York and gambling regulations has invariably been intriguing. This association’s history traces back to the era of prohibition, unlawful casinos, and horse racing, leading up to tribal casinos. Despite the perception of New York as a forward-thinking state, it doesn’t exhibit much innovation pertaining to gambling legislation.

This article will introduce you to the New York state’s brief history of gambling laws and regulations and show you what to look forward to in the future. You can also read about what games are legal and where to play them in NYS.

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Gambling Laws in New York — The Law Overview

In the 19th century, three bans sealed the fate of any gambling in New York until the end of the prohibition era in the 1930s. The prohibition era banned any alcohol, including import, production and transportation, from 1920 to 1933 in the USA. During the prohibition period, even though alcohol and gambling were illegal, notorious criminal organizations controlled underground casinos.

Nowadays, gambling in the state of New York is defined as an act of “staking or risking something of value upon the outcome of a contest of chance or a future contingent event not under person’s control, upon an agreement that he/she will receive something of value, given a certain event.”

Furthermore, there are only three tribes, out of the eight, that provide lawful gaming in NYS — the Seneca Nation of Indians, the St. Regis Mohawks and the Oneida Indian Nation of New York. Many tribal casinos enjoy live poker games. The state regulates all Class III games to maintain the integrity of the games.

Gambling in the Empire State has seen a couple of changes in its legislation with legalizing all types of gambling today, except online gambling that is still prohibited in the state. For now, online gambling is legal only in ten US states. In most cases, players are not targets for criminal actions in illegal gambling. The targets are actually the organizers of the illegal activities, and the NYS is very strict in their punishments.

Horse Racing

However, horse racing has had a long history in this particular state. The very first horse race in the United States happened in New York in 1665. Until 1908, horse racing was legal in the state of New York. Nonetheless, the Hart-Agnew Law changed that significantly. The law was sponsored by two politicians that had their sights set on banning gambling and horse racing altogether. Even so, horse racing betting continued on the tracks with legislators heavily punishing anyone caught with a piece of paper writing down bets.

In 1910, the laws on horse betting became even stricter with prison punishments for racetrack owners. In 1913, they determined that the Hart-Agnew Law only applied to bookmakers and not oral betting, and most of the problems went away.

With the comeback of horse racing betting, racinos made an appearance. A competitor to the traditional races came in the form of slot-style gaming. These two complement each other nicely. Thus, people decided to incorporate them together and make racinos. Racinos include horse tracks or dog tracks with slot machines. Since 2013, ten US states have legalized racinos, including New York.

New York Lottery

Not only is the lottery one of the oldest legal ways of gambling, but there is also a fascinating fact that the money for the construction of the New York City Hall came from the lottery. Lottery proceeds were used for the construction of bridges, canals, roads and churches in the Empire State. Primarily, their goal was to use some part of the profits made from the lottery to aid the education system with the slogan from 1967 “Your Chance of a Lifetime to Help Education”. The government generated more than $34 billion for education funds.

In 1966, the lottery in the state of New York was legalized with the rule that a player needs to be 18 or older to play, or 21 or older to play in places where alcohol can be bought (specifically Quick Draw). Quick Draw is a keno-style game with the minimum play of $1.

You can make your choice from a variety of lottery games. You can take your pick from In-house draw games, Multi-jurisdictional games, Video lottery, and Instant games. There has been some criticism about the low payout percentages and, until 2013, scratch-game winners had complained about not having the possibility of choosing cash over periodic payments.

Additionally, New York is the fifth state in the country by the number spent annually on the lottery. An average New Yorker spends around $539.63 every year on lottery games. Other reports say that 92% of New York inhabitants buy lottery tickets, scratches, and games yearly. That makes NY the state with the highest number of players in the whole of the USA.

In 2013, the New York State Gaming Commission was formed by merging Lottery operations with New York State Racing and Wagering Board.

Is Online Gambling Legal?

This is where it gets a bit tricky. Any type of online gambling, notably including online poker games, is still illegal in the state of New York. Since 2013, New York has been attempting to legalize online gambling and follow Nevada’s steps. Nothing has yet been accomplished regarding online gambling, but many are hopeful that it will be legalized soon.

Even though there are strict laws about online gambling, some people are willing to take the risk because, currently, there are no criminal penalties in the state’s penal code. Because of that, players can access offshore gambling sites or other sites and gamble online. There are no legal consequences of playing offshore online games for New York residents.

Additionally, the decades-long ban on online sports betting was abolished by the Supreme Court in May 2018. Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act is no longer active. Now you can bet online on any sport, even fantasy sports.

Where to Gamble in New York?

If you are in the New York area and interested in gambling, there are some racing tracks, casinos, racinos, and more. Here are a couple of appealing choices:

Saratoga Race Course

Active since 1863 and located in the city of Saratoga Springs, Saratoga County in NY state, it is considered one of the oldest racing venues in the country. It is the most popular place for race lovers during the six-week season from late July to early September. Betting at the Saratoga racecourse couldn’t be easier. Some helpful clerks will take your bet. You will just need to make a choice — race number, amount of your bet, type of bet, and the name of the horse you are placing your bet on. Many reviews mention that the course is also family-friendly, with plenty of picnic spaces.

Empire City

If in Yonkers, New York, you can visit the Empire City that has been a racino since 2006. It joined the Yonkers Raceway that has been opened since 1899. Recently, it joined the MGM Resorts International. The casino offers 4,600 slots and electronic games, where they provide more than 5,000 different games to choose from. This institution draws attention because their minimum age requirement is 18 years, while others only allow players of 21 years or older. Additionally, they offer monthly promotions — from $700,000 Grand Prize to concert tickets and dollar bonuses for members and more.

Resort World Catskills

Opened in 2018, it has already gathered the attention and loyalty of players. It is located in Monticello, New York, and owned by Empire Resorts. Catskills offers a lot of entertainment for players, such as 150 live Las-Vegas style table games, 1,600 modern slot machines, private gaming salons, and poker rooms. And if you bet away into the night, they also offer luxury suites, premium accommodation, and more.

Besides all that, they also have many promotions for the players and members of their clubs. The casino offers $10,000 cash prizes in tournaments, exclusive offers for new members, awards in the form of Porches, and many others.

Seneca Niagara Casino and Hotel

The casino and hotel opened in 2002 and 2006, respectively, under the ownership of The Seneca Nation Of Indians. The location is quite attractive to tourists since it is in the city of Niagara Falls, located in Niagara County, New York. Outside Manhattan, it is the largest hotel in the Empire State. The casino operates with 99 gaming tables and 4,200 slot machines on 82,000 square feet of gaming space. They also offer a sports lounge with diverse bets on matches, from college basketball to hockey. Like many other casinos, they also provide promotions such as cash prizes, basketball tickets, new membership bonuses, and more.


Are casinos legal in New York?

Yes, casino gambling is legal in the state of New York. You can place your bets at six tribal casinos and four Vegas-style commercial casinos.

Is online gambling legal in New York?

As mentioned before, online gaming is illegal, but since there are no criminal penalties for online gambling, many do not follow the law and indulge in online gambling.

What is the legal gambling age for players in New York?

You need to be at least 21 years old to gamble at Seneca casinos and 18 for all other gambling facilities.

Is betting on greyhound dog races allowed?

No, betting on greyhound dog races is illegal. Dog races have been absent from this state for more than 75 years.

Are table games legal in New York?

Class III casinos in the state offer table games such as blackjack, roulette, craps, and baccarat. Additionally, they offer slots and video poker.