New York Adds Bad Actor Language To Online Poker Bill; Is A Late Push Coming?

June 7, 2017
New York Adds Bad Actor Language To Online Poker Bill; Is A Late Push Coming?


The New York online poker bill changed in a material way this week. Will it hurt or help its chances?

An amendment to the bill was introduced by its sponsor, Sen. John Bonacic on Monday. It came with the clock running down on the legislative session.

It’s unclear what this new development means for the bill’s odds of becoming la.

A look at the bad actor language

Bonacic’s amendment to S 3898 added strict “bad actor” and tainted asset language to the bill. As is the case in other jurisdictions (see California), the new language is seemingly aimed at denying Amaya PokerStars access to the market.

The new language reads:

(i) has at any time, either directly, or through another  person  whom it owned, in whole or in significant part, or controlled:


 (A)  knowingly  and  willfully  accepted  or  made available wagers on interactive gaming (including poker) from persons located in the  United States after December thirty-first, two thousand six, unless such wagers were  affirmatively  authorized  by  law of the United States or of each state in which persons making such wagers were located; or


 (B) knowingly facilitated or otherwise provided services with  respect to interactive gaming (including poker) involving persons located in the United  States for a person described in clause (A) of this subparagraph and acted with knowledge of the fact that  such  wagers  or  interactive gaming involved persons located in the United States; or


(ii) has purchased or acquired, directly or indirectly, in whole or in significant  part,  a person described in subparagraph (i) of this para-graph or will use that person or a  covered  asset  in  connection  with interactive gaming licensed pursuant to this article.

A spokesperson for Bonacic issued the following statement:

“Senator Bonacic amended the online poker bill to provide the Gaming Commission with the opportunity to take into consideration an applicant’s prior bad acts in relation to determining suitability for a license.


He is committed to moving the bill forward and looking forward to working with his colleagues in the Senate and Assembly to do so.”

Is this good or bad for online poker?

Conventional wisdom says the addition of the bad actor language will erode support for the bill. Amaya would shift from supporting the bill to opposing it. It also adds a new dimension to an already complicated issue.

That being said, it’s uncommon to amend a bill just to amend it. The amendments were added for a reason, and that reason could be to coax support for the bill.

To appease the Assembly

One theory is that the bill is likely going to pass the New York Senate, as it did last year. However, it could once again wither and die in the Assembly.

Parsing the statement from Bonacic’s office about working with colleagues in both chambers, the new amendment could help the bill’s chances in the Assembly. And if the amendment erodes some support in the Senate, the bill can afford to lose a few votes in that chamber. Online poker passed the Senate last session by a 53-5 vote.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to get a read on the gambling gatekeeper in the Assembly, J. Gary Pretlow. The amendment may have been added to increase the bill’s chances in the Assembly. Still, it’s unclear if Pretlow will move on the bill.

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At the governor’s request

Another theory is that the amendment was requested by the governor’s office. This would be a positive development for two reasons.

  1. It indicates the administration believes it could pass both houses of the legislature.
  2. It indicates Gov. Andrew Cuomo would sign the bill if the amendment is included.

So why would Cuomo want bad actor language inserted into the bill? It could have to do with a questionable contribution made by former Amaya CEO David Baazov to Cuomo’s gubernatorial campaign back in 2014.

Even though the donation was made before Amaya purchased PokerStars, and even though Baazov is no longer the CEO or a board member at Amaya, the link between PokerStars and the Cuomo would raise plenty of eyebrows if the bill passed.

Therefore, the bad actor language targeting PokerStars might have been added to eliminate any signs of a quid pro quo.

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