Handicapping the status of online gambling’s prospects in New York is a nearly daily exercise, at this point.
In the state legislature, online poker has gone from a sideline issue, to into the budget, to out of the budget. After optimism early in the spring for passing iPoker legislation, those hopes have been downgraded to pessimism.
Now, daily fantasy sports seems to have joined the roller-coaster ride.
At first, high hopes for DFS
At the iGaming North America Conference held last week, Rep. Gary Pretlow — chairman of the Assembly’s gaming committee — was bullish on DFS.
“With regards to daily fantasy sports, the passage of the legislation that I am going to propose, if I was going to handicap it, it would be like betting on Secretariat in the Belmont Stakes — it’s better than even money,” he said.
That made everyone take notice in attendance and elsewhere, as New York is a battleground state for DFS. Recently, DraftKings and FanDuel reached a settlement in their ongoing court battle with Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. That settlement appeared to be based on hopes by the industry that it could get legislation passed before the legislature adjourns in June.
The only problem with Pretlow’s assessment at the time? We didn’t know what his yet-to-be-introduced legislation would look like, or that it could provide a major hurdle for DFS.
The new Pretlow DFS bill
We are still waiting to see what Pretlow will propose, although he has said all along it will differ from the legislation offered by Sen. John Bonacic.
A recent report from Gambling Compliance (paywall) gave an indication of what Pretlow had planned, and it wasn’t good for the immediate future of DFS in the state.
According to GC, the bill Pretlow will put forward would make DFS legal in the state if and when sports betting becomes legal at the federal level.
That would be tantamount to a ban in New York for awhile, as any such measure would depend on the repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act — the law that bans all forms of sports wagering in all but Nevada, Delaware, Montana and Oregon.
Such a repeal may happen someday, but it’s certainly not on the near-term horizon. DFS certainly does not want to wait for PASPA to come off the books for legal clarity in New York.
Can DFS succeed, outside of Pretlow?
As we have seen in the past, Pretlow has made the process of considering online poker a slow one. Although he has introduced iPoker bills in recent years, he’s done it even though he doesn’t expect the legislation to be passed or even voted on.
Of course, DFS is coming from a far different starting point than online poker — the future of the DFS industry could very well depend on what happens in New York in the next several months.
Two other states — Indiana and Virginia — have passed DFS bills so far, without any type of PASPA clause. And neither law has been challenged in court, yet — although the only likely plaintiff would be the NCAA. And DraftKings and FanDuel did their best to placate that organization by agreeing to stop offering college fantasy contests.
However, Pretlow chairs the gaming committee in the Assembly, and apparently he believes the DFS bill needs a PASPA workaround. Getting a bill with different wording — like Bonacic’s — past his committee could be a tall order.
What does it all add up to? The prospects of DFS legality in New York went from sunny to cloudy in a matter of days.