Emergence Of Another Online Poker Bill In New York Bodes Well For Legalization

February 8, 2017
Emergence Of Another Online Poker Bill In New York Bodes Well For Legalization

Tuesday saw another positive development on the online poker front. New York Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow introduced A 5250, a bill that would legalize and regulate online poker in the Empire State.

The bill is a carbon copy of state Sen. John Bonacic’s S 3893, which was introduced in January.

Pretlow key to unlocking New York online poker

With the same legislation in both chambers, and introduced by the two gatekeepers for such legislation (the two men chair the Racing, Gaming and Wagering committees in their respective chambers), all the pieces are aligned for New York to legalize and regulate online poker.

All that’s left is for the legislature to act, which proved problematic in 2016.

Last year, the Senate easily passed a similar online poker bill (also introduced by Bonacic) by a 53-5 margin. But the bill was never considered in the Assembly. Despite sailing through the Senate, it was declared dead by Pretlow as soon as it landed in the lower chamber.

At the time, Pretlow indicated the Assembly’s inaction was due to not having the necessary votes to pass the bill, but he also harbored his own mottled misgivings about online poker.

In June 2016, Pretlow told PokerNews that the structure of wagering in poker — the ability to decide when and how much to bet throughout the hand — was, in his estimation, problematic when it came to designating poker a game of skill.

“In poker, you’re betting and you’re changing the bet by raising,” he said. “That’s gambling. In my legislative finding, I found DFS is not gambling. I can’t find that poker is not gambling.”

NY lawmakers weren’t on the same page

In the same PokerNews.com column, Bonacic fired back at this assertion, saying, “The best hand doesn’t always win, and that doesn’t happen unless it’s a game of skill.”

Bonacic went on to cast doubts on Pretlow’s explanation.

“When I asked [Pretlow] if he was going to move the bill, he said he didn’t know,” Bonacic told PokerNews. “He never said to me what he told you.”

This was the last we heard of the “game of skill” concerns. Pretlow quickly shifted to another concern he first raised with PokerNews — cheating, and in particular, collusion.

However, it appears he laid his cheating concerns to rest after visiting with the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement.

Earlier this year, Pretlow told Gambling Compliance:

“They have people working together to make sure everything is monitored and recorded, which I wasn’t aware of. Every single hand on every single game is there, and they can check and see how people are playing and they have systems in place to show how people are playing with each other.”

Now that Pretlow has introduced companion legislation in the Assembly, it seems he may finally be ready to move on online poker in coordination with the Senate.

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Inside New York’s online poker bills

The identical bills would legalize and regulate (through the New York State Gaming Commission) online poker in New York in the same way the legislature legalized daily fantasy sports last year: by classifying the game as a game of skill.

The legislation would also allow New York to enter into interstate online poker agreements with other states.

Finally, the bill would also create a set of baseline regulations. (The rest would be left up to the commission.) It would authorize up to 11 online poker licenses, which would be granted to:

  • Currently licensed operators of video lottery gaming in New York or from states with similar licensing requirements with experience in interactive gaming, or guarantees acquisition of adequate business competence and experience in the operation of interactive gaming.
  • Brick and mortar Class III gaming operators licensed by New York or in a state with comparable licensing requirements, or guarantees acquisition of adequate business competence and experience in the operation of interactive gaming.
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