New York Online Poker In Flux As Assemblyman Runs Hot And Cold On Legalization

May 16, 2017
New York Online Poker In Flux As Assemblyman Runs Hot And Cold On Legalization


The New York Senate is expected to pass a bill legalizing and regulating online poker in the very near future.

This belief comes after the bill S 3898 advanced out of the Finance Committee and to the full Senate for consideration.

The Senate passed a similar bill by a 53-5 vote last year, and passage in 2017 appears likely.

What happens after the Senate?

But the optimism in the Senate hasn’t carried over to the New York Assembly, where online poker is meeting greater resistance.

Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow, who chairs the Assembly Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee, is the gatekeeper of gaming legislation in the lower chamber.

Unfortunately, Pretlow has a solid poker face. Thanks to numerous rounds of contradictory comments, it’s been hard to get a read on his intentions.

What Pretlow has said on online poker previously

Pretlow has introduced online poker bills on several occasions, but calling him a supporter isn’t accurate. He is widely believed to be the reason last year’s bill was never taken up by the Assembly. The assemblyman has used a carousel of reasons for the bill’s death.

The excuses ranged from a lack of support, to poker not being a game of skill, to concerns about the efficacy of geolocation and anti-cheating technology.

The excuses also seemed to catch the bill’s sponsor, Sen. John Bonacic off guard, as he told PokerNews, “When I asked him if he was going to move the bill, he said he didn’t know … he never said to me what he told you.”

Earlier this year, Pretlow told local news reporter Andrew Whitman that his concerns had been allayed, and he was ready to sign off on an online poker bill, which is something Pretlow intimated would help the measure overcome any remaining opposition.

During his interview with Whitman, Pretlow stated the following:

“I took a field trip to New Jersey. We met with the attorney general down there. I went over their geolocating apparatus, and they proved to me that if someone was floating in their yacht on the Hudson River on the New Jersey side they could be playing poker; if they drift across to the New York side it would cut right out.”

“When I do sign off on something, my colleagues feel that it is a good deal and they don’t question why I made a certain decision. They know that if that decision was made, it’s for good reason. So I don’t really see there’s going to be much opposition to moving this along.”

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Where Pretlow is at now

Pretlow’s concerns may be abated, but his latest comments — which come to us via Whitman’s Twitter account — aren’t as optimistic as the last time he sat down with Whitman for an interview.

Whitman spoke with Pretlow soon after S 3898 passed the Senate Finance Committee. He summed up the conversation as follows:

According to Whitman, if the bill doesn’t make any progress during the next three weeks, it’s likely dead for the session.

Pretlow’s comments are troubling. They raise not one, but upwards of four issues that could derail online poker in New York:

  • Legislators are worried New York is expanding gambling too quickly.
  • The legislative session ends in late June, so time is of the essence.
  • Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s stance on the issue is still unclear.
  • Tribal casinos may not be on board with idea of online poker.

Bottom line: Online poker legalization is in a state of flux in New York.

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