Are We Still Doing This? NY Lawmaker Says Poker Is Gambling, Fantasy Sports Is Skill

Dustin Gouker June 22, 2016 1407 Reads
Pretlow NY online poker skill

The reason why an online poker bill didn’t get passed by the New York legislature this year is now known. It might not be an answer that excites most online poker proponents.

Poker = gambling

Last week, the New York Senate passed an online poker bill by an overwhelming margin that would have legalized and regulated online poker in the state.

At the same time, Assemblymember Gary Pretlow was saying the bill wasn’t going anywhere in his chamber. The reason for that was reported by PokerNews.com on Wednesday in an interview.

According to Pretlow, poker is gambling, but daily fantasy sports is not. Pretlow goes through what amounts to mental gymnastics to come to this conclusion.

By Pretlow’s logic, because you can “change the bet” by raising in poker, that makes it gambling. In DFS, because you can’t change the bet — you only pay a set entry fee — Pretlow insists that it is not gambling.

Go to PokerNews and read the whole quote to watch the pretzel-shaped logic being employed.

The problems with this line of reasoning on poker vs. DFS

There are at least a few problems with what Pretlow is saying.

What definition of ‘gambling’ is being used, exactly?

Gambling, as a basic term, generally is understood to include three things: prize, consideration (a wager or fee) and chance.

But according to Pretlow, something isn’t gambling simply because you can’t change the bet. Here’s a non-exhaustive list of things you place a bet on and not a change the bet in the midst of playing a single event (or “hand of poker” equivalent):

  • Roulette
  • Slot machines
  • Sports betting
  • Horse racing
  • Lottery tickets

If you want to say that DFS is solely a skill game and poker is solely gambling, I won’t agree with you. (I think they are both forms of skill-based gambling). But that’s at least an argument that a rational person can make.

The idea that “changing the bet” is something that has any bearing on whether something is or isn’t gambling is difficult to square.

There are forms of poker where you can’t change the bet

So if you prescribe to Pretlow’s logic, poker is a form of gambling because you can raise/change the bet. Got it.

Guess what? There are forms of poker where you can’t change the bet. This novel idea is called a “tournament.” Perhaps you have heard of it. You pay an entry fee for a set number of chips. You win prizes afterewards.

So, this form of poker, therefore, isn’t gambling right? Cash games = not OK. Tournaments = OK. Right? Pretlow’s logic misses this common way of playing poker.

The good news? Poker isn’t dead

The PokerNews report also indicated that Pretlow believes the bill will be back in 2017, and that it can pass the legislature.

That apparently involves making a better argument that poker isn’t gambling and is a game of skill.

The fact that online poker has been in discussion in New York since 2013, and this is the first time this “legal” concern from Pretlow has surfaced, certainly seems bizarre.

But, at least online poker isn’t off the table entirely, which is apparently the only safe bet in NY, outside of DFS.

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