New York Senate Passes Poker Bill With Lopsided Vote As Online Gambling Momentum Builds

Jun.15, 2016 11:20:AM
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    NY online poker

The New York State Senate passed S5302, a bill that would legalize and regulate online poker in the Empire State. The measure easily passed the Senate by a vote of 53-5.

The prospects for NY online poker

The historic vote comes with a significant caveat, as the New York legislature is scheduled to wrap up its session on Thursday. This tight window gives the Assembly precious little time to pass the bill and send it Governor Andrew Cuomo’s desk.

Furthermore, the Assembly’s online poker champion, Assemblyman Gary Pretlow, seems overly pessimistic when it comes to the bill progressing through the lower chamber. The key New York Assemblyman has declared online poker dead in the Assembly.

The passage by the Senate (by a wide margin) coupled with the Assembly essentially refusing to take action on the bill is certainly frustrating, but to call online poker dead would be premature. Just a little bit ago, anything happening on the online poker bill seemed like a longshot.

There is still a path forward for the bill; actually two paths:

  1. The New York Assembly could have a change of heart (particularly if the rumored lobbying that is taking place isn’t being exaggerated).
  2. Online poker could be added (possibly along with daily fantasy sports) to an omnibus bill.

Progress is still progress

If the Assembly doesn’t act this year, online poker’s overwhelming support in the Senate bodes well for its chances in 2017.

New York is now one of only five states that has passed an online gambling bill through one of its legislative houses. Three of the other four (Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey) saw their online gambling bills signed into law. Only in Iowa did a legislative body pass an online gambing bill and fail to turn it into law, a scenario that unfolded way back in 2012.

However online poker plays out this year, New York now looks like a much better bet to pass an online poker bill in the future.

New York is not an outlier

What makes the New York vote even more uplifting for online poker supporters is the similar groundswell of momentum taking place in several other states.

As noted above, only five states have ever seen an online gambling bill pass a legislative chamber. Yet, Michigan, California and Pennsylvania could all see similar votes occur in the coming days and weeks.

In each state, online poker and/or online gambling legislation has passed or is close to passing through the necessary committee votes and cleared any legislative hurdles, making them eligible for consideration for a full floor vote.

By the end of the year, the number of states with legislative chambers that have voted on online gaming could double from four to eight.

Michigan

Unlike the other states on this list, Michigan’s online gambling bill is not constrained by time.

Having passed the Senate Regulatory Reform Committee earlier this month, Michigan’s online gambling bill, SB 889, sponsored by State Senator Mike Kowall, will remain active until the end of the year. However, the legislature will soon be in recess, and won’t return until September, so we’ll be hitting the pause button on the momentum the state currently has for several months.

Kowall indicated that while the Senate could vote on the bill at any time, the House of Representatives will likely wait until the tail end of the session, after the elections take place.

California

If the Assembly Appropriations Committee passes Assemblyman Adam Gray’s online poker bill within the next two weeks, it would immediately become eligible for a floor vote.

This is not uncharted territory for California. A shell bill cleared the same hurdle last year. But, AB 2863 is far more detailed, and has a much stronger coalition of support, which makes a floor vote more likely. That being said, whether it will get one this year is anyone’s guess.

California may be online poker’s goose that laid the golden egg, but the state has generally frustrated online poker supporters at every turn. Can that change this year?

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania’s online gambling bill (which also includes multiple other gaming reforms) has already been voted on by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

Unfortunately, it failed to pass, denying Pennsylvania the chance to join the ranks of states with regulated online gambling.

Fortunately, a motion to reconsider the bill passed, and the bill remains active and alive, and is expected to be brought back up in the coming days. Interestingly, it’s not online gaming that is holding up the legislation; rather it’s a debate around how much the state should increase the footprint of video gaming terminals (VGT’s) throughout Pennsylvania.

   
Steve Ruddock
Steve covers nearly every angle of online poker in his job as a full-time freelance online gaming writer, with a focus on the regulated markets in New Jersey and Nevada for USPoker.
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