Handicapping the effort to regulate online poker in New York is a difficult proposition.
But the push for legal NY online poker had as good of a day as it could have on Thursday, although serious hurdles still remain.
NY poker passes a vote, but what now?
For the second time this year, Sen. John Bonacic’s online poker bill — S5302 — passed a committee vote.
After moving through the Racing, Gaming and Wagering committee that Bonacic chairs in February, it got through the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday. It now heads to the Senate floor for consideration.
In between, the bill sat idle on the sidelines. The inaction, followed by sudden action, makes for an uncertain future for the bill.
That is especially true because of the total lack of action on the Assembly side, other than the initial introduction of a companion bill to start the year from Assemblymember Gary Pretlow.
As recently as Friday, Pretlow was not optimistic about his chamber’s ability to pass an iPoker bill. The legislature adjourns on June 16.
Lobbying from casinos ramps up
Support for online poker legislation had generally been tepid before recently. But that has changed.
The New York Gaming Association is all for online poker now that legislation would tie licensing to brick-and-mortar facilities. (At the same time, it is against legislation that regulates daily fantasy sports without a similar provision.)
Also on Thursday MGM Resorts (which doesn’t currently have a presence in the NY casino industry) released a statement from General Counsel John McManus on the Senate bill’s progress:
“This legislation recognizes that millions of New Yorkers play online poker on unregulated and unprotected off-shore poker websites that operate with no oversight, fraud controls, or age restrictions.
“We applaud the Senate Finance Committee’s vote to create a safe, legal environment for online poker through legislation that will generate tens of millions of dollars in revenue for taxpayers, and create open and fair opportunities for all providers of online poker.”
It all represents a far more active form of lobbying than had existed in the state prior to this year.
The DFS part of the equation
A DFS bill is also making its way through the legislature, albeit with more momentum than the poker legislation.
In a DFS hearing, Bonacic noted that the gambling lobby was pushing back against his bill, by “putting pressure on every elected official that has a racino in the state of New York.”
How much sway does the casino lobby actually hold on these issues? It might not be clear until either bill gets to votes before the full Senate or Assembly. The Poker Players Alliance, for its part, believes the two issues can be handled in tandem.
One can at least imagine a scenario where the lobby stands down on DFS if given a carrot on iPoker, either now or in the future. It does not appear that the DFS bill will be amended to appease the casino lobby.
Can New York beat what appeared to be long odds of passing an online poker bill in 2016? We’ll find out in the next two weeks.
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