RNN-TV/Fios1’s Andrew Whitman had the chance to sit down and talk online poker with New York Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow.
Pretlow is the chairman of the legislative body’s Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee and the sponsor of several online poker bills over the years, including the current legislation in the Assembly. A bill in the Senate recently cleared a committee vote.
The pair spent most of a 15-minute interview discussing the possibility of online poker legalization in New York, which now seems closer than ever.
Most of the online poker talk takes place in part 1 of the interview.
The online poker talk concludes at the beginning of part 2 before the interview veers into the potential expansion of live poker in New York, followed by a brief exchange on the state’s horse racing industry.
Pretlow confirms his role as the gatekeeper
Last year, the New York Senate passed an online poker bill by a vote of 53-5. But the bill stalled in the Assembly. Pretlow is largely seen as the stumbling block that prevented legalization last year. He also serves as the gatekeeper on this issue going forward.
As 2016 came to an end, Pretlow explained away the legislative body’s inaction on online poker by saying the votes simply weren’t there to pass the bill that breezed through the Senate. But in the interview with Whitman, Pretlow intimated that the reason the Assembly lacked those votes was because he hadn’t signed off on it.
“You say a stumbling block; well, I have high standards and I’m not afraid to say that,” Pretlow told Whitman when asked if the appetite for online poker would be different this year.
“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,” Pretlow went on to say. “They know that if that decision was made, it was for good reasons.”
Pretlow then applied this logic to the bill’s future: “I don’t feel there will be much opposition to moving this along.”
The clear implication is that once he signs off on the bill, enough of his colleagues in the Assembly will fall in line.
Geolocation and regulatory concerns put to rest
Pretlow started off the interview by explaining that his past reservations with certain aspects of online poker. Namely, he he talked about the potential for cheating and whether the technology in place worked. He said these issues were resolved after he visited New Jersey for a firsthand look at the safeguards in place.
“I took a field trip to New Jersey,” Pretlow told Whitman. “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.”
Pretlow segued from geolocation right into the possibility of collusive cheating occurring online. As was the case with geolocation, after his trip to New Jersey these fears were quelled.
“That’s not going to happen either,” the assemblyman said of rampant cheating. “I’m pretty satisfied cheating isn’t going to take place.”
Pretlow indicated that with these two concerns abated he’s now ready to move the bill along. As noted above, he said he doesn’t foresee any insurmountable opposition. This means the legislature and the potential stakeholders in the state are likely on board. The number of casino licenses would be limited to 10, enough for every current casino and racino operator to be involved.
Pretlow said none of the four new casinos in New York have a problem with the state offering online poker, nor are the state’s racinos.
The only pocket of opposition Pretlow cited was unnamed people in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration.
The game-of-skill debate
One of the statements for which Pretlow caught flak in 2016 was a comment he made to PokerNews.com where he said poker was not a game of skill, because players can change their wager size at different points in a hand.
Now, several months later, Pretlow laughed away the classification of poker (or daily fantasy sports for that matter) as a game of skill or a game of chance. The veteran politician made it clear that the skill classification is more about political expediency than any scientific analysis or legal definition of skill or chance.
“I take the attitude that what I have to say to get it done, I say to get it done,” Pretlow told Whitman, noting that what’s important is that poker is a game people enjoy playing, and the debate over skill and chance is subjective.
“Some people have skill and some people play by chance,” Pretlow said. “I’ve seen people win not knowing the first thing they’re doing about poker, and I’ve seen people lose who are the so-called professionals.”
“I just want to make sure that if we allow it in New York, it’s on the up and up.”