New York Online Poker Makes New Progress, But Bill May Have Run Into A Wall

June 18, 2017
New York Online Poker Makes New Progress, But Bill May Have Run Into A Wall


New York’s attempt to legalize online poker has taken several steps forward over the past week, but a new problem has apparently cropped up. And this issue may grind the entire process to a halt.

With scant time left in the New York legislative session, legal online poker might come up just short for the second consecutive year.

Two steps forward for online poker…

Sen. John Bonacic’s online poker bill, S 3898, recently passed the Senate by a 54-8 vote. This past week, the Assembly Racing, Wagering and Gaming Committee got the online poker ball rolling in the lower chamber. The committee passed an online poker bill by a vote of 10-1. It had been introduced by Assemblymember J. Gary Pretlow back in February

The next stop for the Assembly bill (A 5250) is the Assembly Codes Committee, and if approved there it would move to the full Assembly for consideration.

It should go without saying that passage in the Senate and movement in the Assembly is a positive development.

However, leadership in the Assembly is having second thoughts. As a result, online poker’s chances have been significantly downgraded.

…and one step back

According to source chatter in Albany, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie is now opposed to the online poker bill and may prevent it from progressing any further this session.

The reasons behind Heastie’s sudden concerns are unclear and seem to have surfaced following Thursday’s committee vote.

In an interview with Online Poker Report’s Matthew Kredell on Friday, Pretlow said he wasn’t sure where Heastie stands on the bill. But he did say there were lingering concerns in the Assembly over the constitutionality of the bill and whether the bad-actor language added by the Senate has enough teeth.

Pretlow handicapped the bill’s chances as slim, but not dead.

Time is of the essence for NY online poker

Even if the mystery issue can be resolved, time is running short. The legislature only has three scheduled working days left on its calendar: Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.

If the bill is going to pass, these issues need to resolved, followed by fast legislative action.

Further complicating the situation: The Assembly bill as currently written is not a carbon copy of the legislation the Senate passed. Until the two bodies pass the same bill, they’re simply passing the baton back and forth.

The good news is the two bills are nearly identical. The only divergence is that the Senate’s bill possesses bad actor/tainted asset language and the Assembly bill doesn’t.

Of course, the Assembly bill could be amended to mirror the Senate bill before it passes, which Pretlow said he would do in his interview with OPR, even though he’s not enamored with the Senate’s recent amendment.

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If it can only get a vote

What makes the whole situation all the more frustrating is that whenever online poker has been brought up for a vote (in committee or in a full chamber) the legislation has passed quite easily.

In 2016, online poker legislation passed by a:

  • 9-0 vote in the Senate Racing, Wagering and Gaming Committee
  • 20-8 in the Senate Finance Committee
  • 53-5 vote in the Senate

In 2017, online poker bills passed by a:

  • 11-0 vote in the Senate Racing, Wagering and Gaming Committee
  • 27-9 in the Senate Finance Committee
  • 53-9 vote in the Senate
  • 10-1 vote in the Assembly Racing, Wagering and Gaming Committee

On multiple occasions during the past two years, Pretlow has said there is more opposition to online poker in the Assembly than the Senate. He has gone so far as to say the votes weren’t there to pass the legislation in 2016.

But this rhetoric has never been tested. 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.

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