New York To Explore Regulating Online Poker At September Hearing

August 17, 2015
New York To Explore Regulating Online Poker At September Hearing

According to a recent report in Gambling Compliance, New York State Senator John Bonacic, the chairman of the Senate Racing, Gaming, and Wagering Committee, will be scheduling an online poker hearing this September.

Bonacic, one of the biggest supporters of online gaming expansion in the state, told GC he wants to hear what the potential stakeholders have to say about online poker and gaming expansion.

“I’m bringing in Caesars and MGM plus all of my casinos, racinos and OTBs,” Bonacic told GamblingCompliance. “We are going to have a discussion on the pros and cons of moving the legislation.”

However, Bonacic also told GC that his committee will “look seriously” at online gaming in 2016, signifying the September hearing will be exploratory in nature, and that the issue will likely be set aside for the remainder of 2015.

The hearing could set the stage for more serious talks next year, and could allow the legislature to start from square two in 2016 instead of square one. Bonacic could also rally support between now and then.

Poker only may be a sticking point

Bonacic introduced an online poker bill in 2014 (S 6913) and again earlier this year (S 5302).

Both of Bonacic’s proposals have been poker-only (as was the proposal by Assemblyman J Gary Pretlow), something the assembled stakeholders at the September hearing will almost certainly lobby against considering the struggles online poker has experienced in Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey.

Appearing like a far more conservative expansion of gambling, poker-only may seem like an easier sell to the legislature. That being said it also complicates matters.

Without iCasino to bolster revenue numbers, it will be difficult for operators to turn a profit offering online poker exclusively. Because of this, poker-only may frighten away potential stakeholders, particularly with the hefty $10 million licensing fee Bonacic has proposed.

There is also a revenue issue, as the revenue projections for poker-only online expansion in New York would be well south of $100 million annually, of which New York would receive just 15 percent under Bonacic’s proposed bill.

As scary as poker-only could be to stakeholders, adding just $10 to $15 million to the state’s revenue each year is unlikely to pique the interest of Bonacic’s fellow legislators in Albany, and could make it very tough to rally support.

iGaming expansion must be comprehensive

It’s not an apples to apples comparison, as New York has more than double the population of New Jersey, but online casino games account for over 80 percent of New Jersey’s monthly iGaming revenue.

Additionally, iPoker revenues are in a state of decline or stagnation, while the iCasino market continues to mature in New Jersey.

If Bonacic were to push for comprehensive iGaming expansion, it would not only ease the minds of stakeholders, but it would also be a much easier sell in the legislature if the state’s cut of iGaming revenue goes from $10 to $15 million to $75 million annually.

New York is still several years away

The announced hearing is a positive development, but New York is likely still several years away from mounting a serious push to expand into online gambling.

While there have been whispers of iGaming expansion over the past two years, the general consensus in the legislature has been to wait until the new brick and mortar casinos the state approved are up and running, which is still a solid year off at this point.

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