New York Online Poker Hearing to be Live Streamed

New YorkNext Wednesday´s Senate Committee hearing “To Discuss the Future of Online Poker in New York State” will be live streamed on the Senate website.

Next Wednesday (September 9th), the New York´s Standing Senate Committee on Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee will host a public meeting To Discuss the Future of Online Poker in New York State.

The hearing will be chaired by Senator John Bonacic – the Senator responsible for the introduction of proposed legislation to allow online poker in New York (S5302) – and attended by a selection of invited industry experts.

The hearing is scheduled to take place between 1:00pm (EDT) and 4:00pm (EDT) and can be followed live on the Senate website. No registration or password is required to watch the live stream video of the hearing.

What´s on the Table at the Hearing?

As the agenda for the hearing has not yet been released, it is only possible to speculate exactly what will be discussed. Senator Bonacic has told the media that this is intended to be an exploratory hearing, so it is unlikely that anything specifically related to his online poker bill will be on the table.

According to a report in Gaming Compliance last month, Bonacic wants to hear what potential stakeholders have to say about the introduction of online poker in New York:

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

If a positive consensus of opinion is forthcoming from next Wednesday´s committee hearing, it is likely to be a stepping stone for future proposals to be introduced in 2016 when the serious discussions will start. It has been estimated that around $100 million is spent each year in New York on online poker, and Bonacic is currently proposing that licensed operators pay a 15% tax on Gross Gaming Revenues.

Poker-Only Proposals could be a Stalling Point

What might be of concern to the potential stakeholders is that Bonacic´s proposals (both in 2014 and 2015) have been poker-only. Without allowing other forms of online gambling, some stakeholders may baulk at the $10 million licensing fee suggested in Bonacic´s proposals – especially as a previous bad actor clause has been removed so that PokerStars would be eligible to enter the New York market.

The Senate might also be torn between passing legislation that allows for online poker in New York (that raises c. $15 million in revenues) and making sweeping changes to the state´s laws to expand online gambling further. Online poker in neighboring New Jersey accounts for less than 20% of the state´s revenue from online gambling, and the prospect of increasing tax revenues closer to $100 million (by expanding all forms of online gambling) might inspire the legislature to look at the existing [geolink href=””]online gambling legislation status in New York State[/geolink].

Currently, New York bans unlicensed contests of chance in which the outcome depends in a material degree upon an element of chance. Bonacic attempted to overcome this definition by inserting a clause in his poker-only bills that reads:

“Contest of chance” means any contest, game, gaming scheme or gaming device in which the outcome depends [in a material degree] PREDOMINANTLY upon an element of chance, notwithstanding that skill of the contestants may also be a factor therein.

Nice that is was for Bonacic to acknowledge recent court rulings that poker is a game of skill, he may well have to revise his thinking if any form of legislation is to be passed in New York to allow online gambling. With the potential stakeholders fully aware of the declining fortunes of online poker in [geolink href=””]New Jersey[/geolink] and [geolink href=””]Delaware[/geolink], many may be reluctant to put their wholehearted support behind a poker-only bill.

But, isn´t that what an exploratory hearing is supposed to find out?

Jacqueline Packett
Jacqueline Packett