Pretlow: Poker is Not a Game of Skill like DFS

SkillThe Assemblyman responsible for a bill to regulate online poker in New York on the grounds that it is a game of skill appears to have changed his mind.

In January, Assemblyman Gary Pretlow introduced A9049 – a bill that would classify Texas Hold´em and Omaha as games of skill to circumnavigate the state´s law on betting of games of chance. The bill was passed to the Assembly Racing and Wagering Committee – of which Pretlow is Chairman – where it remained until time ran out for the bill to be discussed and forwarded onto the Assembly floor.

At the same time, Senator John Bonacic re-introduce his companion bill – S5302 – into the Senate. The bill had similar language classifying certain types of poker as a game of skill. After a few amendments, Bonacic´s bill passed the Senate´s Gaming and Wagering Committee, and the Finance Committee, before passing the Senate by a majority of 53 votes to 5 votes last week.

However, the passage of S5302 through the Senate was irrelevant as there had been no progress on the Assembly version of the bill. At the time, hopes existed that the Assembly version of the bill would be added to a must-pass Omnibus bill. But instead, Assemblyman Pretlow focused his attention on passing another bill he had introduced – one to regulate Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS).

Real Reason for Poker Bill´s Failure Revealed

Speculation for Pretlow´s preference to push his DFS bill rather than his online poker bill suggested that the DFS bill had greater priority due to the larger volume of DFS players in New York. However – according to an interview conducted with the Assemblyman by Matthew Kredell from – Pretlow´s real reason for failing to advance his online poker bill is that he does not believe that poker is a game of skill – contradicting the language of his own bill.

In the interview, Pretlow told Kredell that his motive for a change of mind was based on the betting process in a game of poker. He explained that – in his opinion – when a player makes a raise, he or she is changing the odds and the value of the prize. In DFS – Pretlow claimed – a player pays an entry fee that cannot be changed at a later date and knows what the prize pool is. Pretlow told Kredell: In my legislative finding, I found DFS is not gambling. I can’t find that poker is not gambling.

Pretlow´s misunderstanding about the skill involved in online poker was picked up by many stunned observers – including OnlinePokerReport´s Dustin Gouker, who questioned Assemblyman Pretlow´s pretzel-shaped logic, gave examples of banned forms of gambling in which the bet cannot be changed after it has been placed (including roulette, slots and sports betting), and reminded the Assemblyman about tournament poker – in which a player pays an entry fee that cannot be changed at a later date, just like DFS.

Does Pretzel-Shaped Logic Damage Hopes for Online Poker Legislation in 2017?

The opportunity to pass online poker legislation in New York has now elapsed for 2016, but advocates of regulated poker are still optimistic that progress will be made next year – despite Pretlow still likely to be in charge of the Assembly Racing and Wagering Committee (he won 94% of the Westchester County vote when he last stood for reelection in 2012).

The Poker Players Alliance commented that the passage of DFS legislation and the Senate´s vote for regulated online poker in New York were positive signs that further progress could be made in 2017. The organization has stated it will embark on a program of education to address the misunderstandings about online poker, and has expressed confidence that next year legislation will pass to allow regulated online poker in New York.

However, the misunderstanding about how to play poker is not the only obstacle advocates of online poker regulation will have to overcome if they want legislation to pass next year. Pretlow has expressed concerns about collusion, and has issues about changing the penal code and state constitution. They [the Senate] don’t look through things as closely as the Assembly does Pretlow claimed in his interview with Matthew Kredell.

Hopefully Pretlow will look more closely at how to play poker before the next legislative session.

Jacqueline Packett
Jacqueline Packett