New York Online Poker Bill Clears First Hurdle Following Unanimous Committee Vote

February 16, 2017
New York Online Poker Bill Clears First Hurdle Following Unanimous Committee Vote

New York online poker legislation is on its way again.

The good news for online poker in NY

The NY Senate Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee unanimously passed Sen. John Bonacic’s online poker bill, S 3898, on Tuesday. Bonacic chairs that committee. The bill’s next stop will be the Senate Finance Committee.

The bill would classify online poker as a game of skill and authorize the New York State Gaming Commission to hand out up to 11 online poker licenses.

Bonacic’s ultimate aim is to include online poker legalization in the state budget. The Senate actually accomplished that last year before it was stripped out by the Assembly.

However, Bonacic also has a contingency plan in place, telling GamblingCompliance (paywall), “I will try to get this into the Senate budget, but if I can’t then it will be a standalone bill after the budget bill is passed and the ball will be in [Gary] Pretlow’s court.”

Pretlow’s court full of land mines and booby traps

Bonacic’s comment about the ball being in “Pretlow’s court” is a reference to his counterpart who chairs the Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee in the Assembly, J. Gary Pretlow. His position has been unpredictable when it comes to online poker in the Empire State.

Despite sponsoring several pieces of online poker legislation, including a companion bill to Bonacic’s this year, Pretlow has been noncommittal on passing an online poker bill. He has offered up a menagerie of reasons for his on-again, off-again support for legal, regulated online poker.

Last year, the Senate easily passed a similar online poker bill by a vote of 53-5. Then, Pretlow declared it dead in the Assembly, and the measure was never voted on.

In the ensuing months, Pretlow was adamant the votes were simply not there. He also cited multiple concerns he harbors, ranging from collusion to poker’s skillfulness. These are concerns he purportedly no longer has after a visit to the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement.

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The way has been cleared for online poker

In an interview with GamblingCompliance, Bonacic relayed his belief that there will be less resistance to online poker in 2017 now that the Assembly addressed other gaming measures.

These include the passage of daily fantasy sports legislation and the North Jersey casino referendum that failed in neighboring New Jersey last November.

Bonacic told GC he sees online poker as a “front burner” issue this year.

Of note: Three of the four New York casinos the statehouse authorized in 2013 have opened their doors. In previous years, lawmakers across the country have used the land-based expansion as a way to sidestep the online gaming issue. They cited concerns with regulating a new form of gambling before physical casino projects are completed.

In 2013, Pretlow told the New York Times he intended “to hold off on even looking at [online poker] with any kind of seriousness” until the state sorted out the land-based casino licenses.

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