What’s The Holdup For NY Online Poker? Assembly Adjourns Without Voting On Bill

Steve Ruddock June 22, 2017
What’s The Holdup For NY Online Poker? Assembly Adjourns Without Voting On Bill
Online gambling supporters suffered another defeat this week when the New York legislature adjourned on Wednesday evening without passing an online poker bill.

There is at least a possibility that lawmakers could return to Albany to work on issues where legislation was not passed. But online poker coming up in such an event seems unlikely.

This is the second consecutive year the New York Senate easily passed an online poker bill only to watch the legislation die in the Assembly. As was the case in 2016, online poker wasn’t even able to get to the floor for a vote.

And for the second year in a row, industry observers are left scratching their heads as they try to figure out how the New York Assembly became the place where online poker legislation goes to die.

This year’s failure is even more difficult to swallow than last year’s because the bill was passed by a 10-1 vote in the Assembly Racing, Wagering and Gaming Committee. That vote should have been a positive step forward, but it quickly evaporated.

How quickly things can change for NY online poker

Before the poker bill was even out of the committee, it was rumored the measure would be stonewalled and left to die. So despite its passage in the committee, things went sour immediately after the 10-1 vote.

Nobody knows what precisely happened, but sometime between the beginning of the day and the vote taking place, Speaker Carl Heastie made his mind up against online poker, according to source chatter in Albany.

Even with Heastie’s opposition and ability to singlehandedly squash the bill, there was some hope online poker legislation could find a way through the Assembly.

On Friday, June 16, the day after the vote, Assemblymemeber J. Gary Pretlow called the bill’s chances “slim, but not very slim” in an interview with Online Poker Report.

Pretlow went on to imply the concerns were manageable:

“I believe they have some issues that may not be resolved by the middle of next week. I’ve heard they have some constitutional issues and disagreements over the penalties. Some people say we don’t have strong enough penalties for bad actor, while some people say the penalties are too strong.”

By the weekend, Pretlow was singing a different tune, as the plug was pulled on online poker in 2017.

“There was some opposition; we’ll pick it up next year more than likely,” Pretlow said in an interview with the New York Daily News.

Not starting from square one in 2018

One bright side is the New York legislature no longer wipes the board clean between non-election year sessions.

What that means is online poker will begin the 2018 legislative session having already passed the Senate and the Assembly Racing, Wagering and Gaming Committee. Because of this, online poker is likely to be addressed much sooner in the session.

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What issues will arise next year?

Trying to guess what concerns will be raised next year is futile. It’s also unclear who is holding up the bill in the Assembly, as a lot of the debate is happening behind closed doors.

In 2016, the Senate passed an online poker bill by a 53-5 vote. Then, in 2017, the Senate passed a similar bill by a 53-9 margin.

In both instances, the bill was unable to advance to the Assembly floor, and the possible reasons for the bills’ failures have run the gamut.

We heard the following in 2016:

  • The votes weren’t there.
  • Concerns about cheating.
  • Does the technology work?
  • Poker isn’t a game of skill.

In 2017, it was constitutionality concerns and bad-actor language. There were even rumblings Gov. Andrew Cuomo would veto the bill.

What we do know is the Senate can probably pass an online poker bill at any point in time. The trick is to get the bill to the Assembly floor.

The notion of widespread opposition to online poker in the Assembly has never even been tested, and the 10-1 vote in the Racing, Wagering and Gaming Committee seems to contradict this.

As I noted in a previous column: “Looking at how the legislation has fared in other votes, it’s hard to believe the Assembly wouldn’t pass an online poker bill if it was brought up for a vote.”

If this is true, it appears we’ll have to wait until at least 2018 to find out.

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