New York Online Poker Regulation: State Budget Inclusion Doubtful, But Bill Still In Play For 2016

March 30, 2016
New York Online Poker Regulation: State Budget Inclusion Doubtful, But Bill Still In Play For 2016

Online poker regulation appears to be a longshot to be a part of the New York state budget for the upcoming fiscal year, but that does not mean that legalization of iPoker is off the table for 2016.

Handicapping online poker’s chances in the budget

New York’s budget is due before Friday, and an agreement between state lawmakers and the governor has not yet been hammered out.

Online poker had been a part of the state Senate’s budget plan, although it was not a part of the initial budget from the Assembly. Indications point to the idea that online poker faces long odds for inclusion in this year’s budget:

However, the budget is not finalized, and negotiations are ongoing; that means that pretty much anything is on the table until everyone signs off on the final budget. Online poker could generate tens of millions of dollars in licensing fees, so it stands as a possibility to fill in any small gaps in the budget for the coming fiscal year.

If not the budget, then what for poker?

Being tied to the budget was never the only path forward for online poker regulation. Being included in the budget would expedite things, in a major way, however; any bill proceeding as a standalone effort can hit any number of speed bumps or roadblocks in committees or in either chamber.

So while being a part of the budget would be the easier way to get to online poker legalization, there’s more than one way to skin the proverbial cat.

The good news is there appears to be more momentum than ever behind a regulatory effort in the state — the fact that it was even included in a version of either chamber’s budget is a sign of that.

The chairs of the racing and wagering committees in both the Assembly and the Senate — Rep. Gary Pretlow and Sen. John Bonacic — have introduced bills once again in 2016. The Senate version has already passed out of one committee vote.

The timeline for 2016 and online poker

Once the budget is put to bed — and if online poker is not included in the spending and revenue package — then the clock is on for online poker to advance on its own merits.

Fortunately, there is plenty of time for that to happen. The New York legislature is in session until June 30, and there’s no “crossover” deadline in New York. (Some legislatures have a deadline by which a piece of legislation must be passed out of one house to be considered in the other for the current session.)

Three months could be considered both a short window and a long timeframe, at the same time. If the bill is given priority by either chamber after the budget deal is done, three months could be more than sufficient to get the bill to the finish line. At the same time, any little hiccup in the process could slow online poker’s process to the point that it won’t be passed by both houses before July.

The legislature is only scheduled to be active 27 of the days between now and June 30, although that could also change.

The chances of passing an online poker bill

Right now, there seems to be little vocal opposition to the bill, other than some reservations about the timing of regulation from Pretlow.

Bonacic put it pretty succinctly, when talking to the New York Times recently:

He said the political motivation for the expansion into such gambling was self-evident.

“It’s another revenue enhancer for the State of New York,” Mr. Bonacic said on Monday.

Still, actions will speak louder than words when it comes to online poker legislation. If we see some movement in April, that would seem to be a good indication of whether New York is seriously considering an online poker push in 2016.

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