Regulated Online Poker in New York – Is It Dead or Alive?

New YorkA bill to regulate online poker in New York passed in the Senate yesterday, just hours after the sponsor of the Assembly companion bill admitted it was dead.

Yesterday morning, the Buffalo News carried a story regarding the progress of New York´s daily fantasy sports bills. The story explained that, although both the Senate and Assembly had agreed similar language in their respective DFS bills, intervention by Governor Andrew Cuomo was stalling the bill´s progress.

The story included an interview with Assemblyman Gary Pretlow – Chairman of the Assembly Committee on Racing and Wagering – who said the likelihood was that the bills would get passed before the legislative session closes on Thursday (tomorrow) and then negotiations would take place with the Governor to address his concerns and amend the bill as necessary.

At the conclusion of the article, Assemblyman Pretlow was asked about the progress to regulate online poker in New Year – Pretlow being the sponsor of A9049. The Assemblyman replied that, despite the state´s racetrack-based casinos trying to keep the measure alive, the bill – which is yet to be passed by the Racing and Wagering Committee – is dead for this session.

Sometime Later, in a Building in Albany … …

Despite Pretlow´s assertion there was no chance his bill to regulate online poker in New York would pass the Assembly in this session, the Senate later held a full debate to discuss the merits of Senator John Bonacic´s S5302 – an identical bill to Pretlow´s that would redefine Texas Hold´em Poker and Omaha Poker as games of skill in order to circumnavigate the state´s ban on gambling on games of chance.

The bills would allow the state´s eleven racetrack-based casinos to apply for online poker licenses at a cost of $10 million each. Licensed operators would be charged 15% tax on their Gross Gaming Revenues and the provision exists to form interstate compacts with other states that have regulated online poker – New Jersey, Delaware and Nevada.

The debate was dominated by an exchange between Bonacic and Senator Liz Krueger – who expressed Sheldon-esque concerns about compulsive gambling and casinos on every smartphone, apparently unaware that online gambling in an unregulated environment is alive and well in the Empire State. After answering Krueger´s concerns about what would happen if the Restoration of Americas Wire Act were to pass at Federal level, the debate went to a vote and the bill was passed by a majority of 53-5.

So, Is Regulated Online Poker in New York Dead or Alive?

The proposals to regulated online poker in New York has some life left in them – but not a lot. As mentioned above, the Assembly version of the bill has to pass by tomorrow in order for the Senate version of the bill to go to Governor Cuomo for his signature. Considering Assemblyman Pretlow´s involvement in other last-minute legislation – and their respective profiles compared to online poker – this seems unlikely.

Pretlow is heavily involved in the attempts to regulate daily fantasy sports and privatize the New York Racing Association. Politically and financially speaking, both of these proposals will have a greater impact on the citizens of New York than the regulation of online poker. It has been claimed that more than three million players from New York engage in daily fantasy sports, whereas the New York Racing Association´s turnover last year exceeded $648 million. Compare this to a couple of hundred online poker players and the $30 million in revenues online poker would generate, and it is not difficult to guess what Assemblyman Pretlow´s priorities may be over the next two days!

Nonetheless, the Poker Players Association has sent a call to arms to its members asking them to lobby New York Assembly members. The Poker Players Alliance believes that there is still a chance that A9049 could be added to an end-of-session Omnibus Bill and passed before Thursday´s deadline – a belief that one industry observer described as a “Hail Mary”. However, miracles happen. It could just be the case that there is one last breath left in the push to regulate online poker in New York, and that reports of the Assembly bill´s demise are premature.

Jacqueline Packett
Jacqueline Packett