Capital Region lawmakers push for video gaming industry funding in state budget

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Assemblymember John McDonald (at podium) joined with Senator Neil Breslin, Assemblymember Carrie Woerner, Velan Studios President Guha Bala, the Capital Region Center for Economic Growth, experts in the gaming industry, and many stakeholders to urge Governor Kathy Hochul to adopt the Empire State Digital Gaming Production Credit and Diversity Job Development Fund in the final enacted NYS budget.
Dave Lucas

Elected officials and supporters are urging Governor Kathy Hochul to include funding in the final New York state budget to solidify the state as a leader in the video game industry.

Supporters gathered at Velan Ventures in Troy on Thursday with 108th District Assemblyman John McDonald among those urging Hochul, a fellow Democrat, to adopt the Empire State Digital Gaming Production Credit and Diversity Job Development Fund in the final enacted budget.

"We are encouraging Governor Hochul to support and even add to that credit to bring it up to a nice round number of $50 million," McDonald said. "So the question is why the gaming industry. The gaming industry here in the United States, is an $86 billion industry throughout the country. However, New York State is 1% of that market. 1%. We can do much better. And by the way, it's over a $200 billion industry globally."

Guha Bala is President of Velan Studios.

"If this game production tax credit, digital game production tax credit passes, then Velan Studios commits to invest $25 million in New York game jobs, what that means is, hiring here locally, as opposed to placing that investment around the country or in different parts of the world. So really incremental jobs placed in New York, largely focused, I think, around the Capital Region, where our headquarters is."

McDonald says thanks to his efforts and those of fellow Democrats Senator Neil Breslin and 113th District Assemblymember Carrie Woerner, the Assembly and Senate budgets each propose funding a $20 million Empire State Digital Gaming Production Credit. McDonald emphasizes New York must adopt the credit to maintain a competitive edge.

"The credit also calls for those entities who are eligible to participate and contribute to the newly created Empire State diversity job trading Development Fund," said McDonald. "The intention of this fund is to introduce gaming at an early age to individuals in all communities to create more opportunity training in a diversified workforce. This is a tax credit. It's not a grant. It's not a loan that's forgivable, it's a credit based on performance. If they do not perform, there is no credit. And therefore, the gaming entities enter at full risk. Our goal is this increase in jobs, good jobs. In other states where these credits have been in place, they've seen tenfold increases in jobs."

McDonald noted that in 2021 the number of employees in the video gaming industry in the United States reached over 273,000.

The New York state budget is due April 1st.

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Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.