New York Online Poker Bill Falters After Clearing State Senate

Updated: June 18th, 2016 by Dev Ops

New York State has come within hailing distance of becoming the fourth US state to authorize and regulate intrastate online poker, but remains on the outside looking in as the state’s legislators have shifted their attention to other matters.  However, the overwhelming passage of a pro-poker bill by the state’s full Senate — on a 53-5 count — continues a shift in favor of attitude toward the online game.

new-york-stamp2When, or if, New York will legalize online poker remains unclear.  While the NY State Senate indeed passed State Rep. John Bonacic’s S5302 bill on Wednesday, the necessary companion bill in the state’s Assembly, sponsored there by Rep. Gary Pretlow, stalled out without receiving a vote.

The Assembly’s version of an online poker failed to gain traction amid relatively greater priority paid to legislation seeking to authorize DFS (daily fantasy sports) activity in the state, a topic which has captured greater public and political attention in the state since a highly visible lawsuit was filed against the two largest DFS operators, DraftKings and FanDuel, late last year.

That lawsuit was settled and dismissed a few months back by the NY Attorney General’s office of Eric T. Schneiderman, with the proviso that the two firms could return to the state if the two companies were approved by regulators and officially legalized by the state’s legislature.  New York was, formerly, an important hub for DFS player activity, and the DFS hubbub tended to overshadow the longer-running online poker push.

That happened again this week.  The DFS bill was given priority in the Assembly and passed there, and Sen. Bonacic, also a supporter of that, helped move that measure through the state’s Senate as well.  The DFS bill now awaits a possible signing into law by the state’s Governor, Andrew Cuomo.

What all that did, naturally, was leave the online-poker measure on the outside looking in, amid any state’s natural hesitation to open too many gambling-related doors at once.  This happened despite the push of the Poker Players Alliance and other pro-poker backers to conjoin the online poker push to that of DFS, on the grounds that, well, the online poker had been waiting a helluva lot longer to be approved anyway.

Further, several of the state’s existing casino interests expressed support for the online-poker legislation, largely because the Bonacic bill called for the issuance of up to 11 online licenses, to be granted to those casino operators already approved to do business in New York State.  Still, the promise of being able to use an in-place regulatory structure still wasn’t enough.

Despite the failure of the state’s Assembly to take action on the online-poker measure, the door isn’t quite fully closed.  The state’s legislature remains in extended session to wrap up ongoing budget matters, and among the several long-shot outcomes at this point is still the possibility of the online-poker language being wrapped up and into the state’s larger omnibus spending measure, a bill called the “”Big Ugly” in the state’s political halls.

There’s also the chance that an “as identical to” bill referring to Bonacic’s already-approved Senate measure could somehow be re-rallied and passed, though it appears that the last chance for that expired on Friday, when state Assembly leaders hammered out negotiated agreements on several other matters.

Given some of the larger interests in play, and the whole viewing of online poker as something of a special-interest topic, it was relatively easy for Pretlow’s camp to trade off the possible online-poker approval for cooperation on other, more mainstream topics.

Pretlow’s office didn’t acknowledge such an occurrence, merely noting back on Wednesday that his initial version of the bill “was dead” for this Assembly session, but it’s official “laid aside” vote appearance had all the earmarks of a politically convenient horse trade.

As usual, that leaves legalized online poker still wanting, still waiting.  New York almost became state number four, and it still might, at that.  But not quite yet.

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