New York Online Poker Hearing in September

New YorkNew York moves incrementally closer to passing online poker legislation, primes for concerted push in 2016.

2015 will likely go down as another disappointing year for online poker advocates in the United States. California remains torn on several issues, including the role of racetracks and so called “bad actors” in any prospective iGaming rollout. Pennsylvania, while still debating the merits of online gaming, seems less and less likely to institute legislation this year. And after months of rumors and speculation, PokerStars has yet to launch in New Jersey.

That being said, 2016 is shaping up to be a groundbreaking year for the industry, with yet another heavily populated state poised to enter the mix.

As first reported by Gambling Compliance, the New York Senate Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee will be hosting an online poker hearing on September 9. The hearing is the brainchild of Senator John Bonacic, who also acts as the Committee chairman and is the author of two online poker bills: S6913, proposed in 2014 and S5302, penned in May of this year.

The only major difference between the two proposals is that the bad actor clause present in S6913 is noticeably absent from this year’s draft.

Zero chance of legislation passing in 2015

As per Bonacic, the committee won’t be taking a serious look at online gaming expansion until 2016, suggesting that September’s hearing will be informational in nature and mostly a device to take the temperature of potential stakeholders.

We are going to have a discussion on the pros and cons of moving the legislation, Bonacic told Gambling Compliance.

If the talks go well, the stage is set for [geolink href=””]New York[/geolink] to become part of the next wave of US states to regulate online poker. New Yorkers spend an estimated $110 million annually gambling at offshore poker sites.

Breaking down S5302

Bonacic’s bill calls for a cap of 10 online poker licenses to be awarded, and a 15% tax rates on online poker proceeds. Operators will be required to pay a $10 million licensing fee, which will remain valid for 10 years.

Licenses are to be issues within 180 days of the bill’s passage, and any entity that conducts online gambling activities without a license is in violation of the law.

Another facet of the bill worth noting is that it addresses and supports interstate compacts. In an ideal scenario, New York will link up with New Jersey and Pennsylvania (and possibly Delaware/Nevada) to create an online poker hub on the east coast. At a combined population of over 40 million, the market will likely resemble Spain’s (population 47 million), which according to, currently averages over 1,300 cash game players.

One potential roadblock that could neutralize discussions is the fact that S5302 is a poker-only bill. While on one hand, poker-only expansion may provide a smoother path toward passage, operators may feel less inclined to push for a bill that will net them far less revenue than if online casinos were also included.

At present, New Jersey only generates 15% of its gross gaming revenue from online poker, the rest coming from its virtual slot machines and table games. Furthermore, New Jersey poker revenues have remained rather flat throughout 2015, while online casinos have thrived, up 34.4% year-over-year in June.

Granted, due to its larger population New York would likely generate a more significant percentage from its online poker operation. Yet, even then a poker-only bill may leave too much money on the table to garner significant interest from potential stakeholders.

Jacqueline Packett
Jacqueline Packett