New York Online Poker Bill Introduced into Assembly

New YorkProposals to legalize and regulate online poker in New York have been introduced by Gary Pretlow – chairman of the Assembly Committee on Racing and Wagering.

For the third year running, proposals have been introduced into the New York Assembly that could see the Empire State join Delaware, New Jersey and Nevada in offering regulated online poker. Assemblyman Pretlow´s Bill (A9049) is similar to that which he submitted last year inasmuch as up to ten operators would have to pay $10 million for a ten-year license and taxes of 15% on Gross Gaming Revenues.

However, the “bad actor” clause – which would have prevented PokerStars from entering the New York market – has gone, and there is a new provision that would allow operators to offset the license fee against their tax liabilities in the first thirty-six months – a provision that was suggested by Gambling Compliance´s Kevin Cochrane during last year´s Senate committee hearing “[geolink href=””]to discuss the future of online poker in New York State[/geolink]”.

Bonacic to Reintroduce Proposals in the Senate

It is widely expected that Senator John Bonacic will introduce a Bill into the Senate similar to Assemblyman Pretlow´s proposals. Bonacic is the chairman of the Senate´s Committee on Racing and Wagering, and this would be the third time in consecutive years he has attempted to introduce legislation to regulate online poker in New York.

Bonacic´s proposals in the past have included a retrospective tax on unregulated operators dating back to 2006. Providing an unregulated online gambling service to residents of New York would also become a criminal offense and – in his original proposals – he suggested that any liquidity sharing with other states would be limited to operators not classified as “bad actors” in New York, irrespective of how they were classified elsewhere.

Chances of Success are Slim …

Even before any proposals are introduced into the Senate, the chances for Gary Pretlow´s Bill to even reach the Assembly floor this year are considered slim. Testimony at last year´s Senate Committee hearing indicated that online poker in New York would not seriously be considered until the state´s three new brick-and-mortar casinos were up and running, and legislation to regulate Daily Fantasy Sports is likely to be the focus during 2016.

Furthermore, many online gambling operators are concerned that the proposals only relate to the regulation of online poker and no other forms of online gambling. Their concerns may be justified based on the performance of online poker in New Jersey – where year-on-year revenues from online poker declined yet again in 2015. It is conceivable that, without the revenue from an online casino, many operators will shy away from regulated online poker in New York because it would not be economically viable.

… But Not Impossible

Optimistic supporters of regulated online poker in New York point to three factors that may influence the passage of Assemblyman Pretlow´s proposals during the course of this year:

  • Now that the three brick-and-mortar casino licenses are out of the way, the House committees on Racing and Wagering will have more time to consider online poker legislation.
  • Online poker legislation could also be integrated with proposals to regulate Daily Fantasy Sports if both were to be considered games of skill.
  • Should neighboring Pennsylvania pass legislation to regulate online gambling, this may prompt the two New York committees to accelerate hearings for online poker proposals.

However, for any proposals for the regulation of online poker in New York to pass, some leading gambling officials are going to need educating. Currently, James Featherstonehaugh – President of the New York Gaming Association – is under the impression that regulated online poker will cannibalize the brick-and-mortar casino industry, while even Assemblyman Pretlow has voiced concerns over the effectiveness of geolocation software.

Some observers have commented that everybody will have to be singing from the same song sheet in order for online poker legislation to pass in New York. We would suggest that some of the key players will first have to learn how to sing!

Jacqueline Packett
Jacqueline Packett