New York Senate Online Poker Bill Moves to Second Committee

Updated: January 31st, 2018 by Haley Hintze

New York’s mild chances to become the fifth US state to legalize and regulate online poker remain intact after the state’s Senate version of a reactivated legalization measure passed its initial committee vote, thus being immediately referred to the Senate’s major clearing house for all budget-related legislation.

Senate Bill 3898, or S3898, sponsored by State Sen. John Bonacic, passed its initial Senate Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee vote by a 10-1 margin. The bill has already been referred to the Senate’s Committee on Finance, which is the other mandatory hurdle for the bill before receiving full NY Senate consideration.

Bonacic’s S3898 bill is the exact same measure that received full Senate approval in 2017, though the House version of the measure never gained matching consideration. A similar scenario looms in 2018, with the NY Senate again an odds-on favorite to pass the bill, only to force the state to wait as the House mulls separate consideration.

Bonacic’s S3898 passed the Racing, Gaming and Wagering vote by a 10-1 count, losing one “yea” vote from 2017, when it passed unanimously. The single lost vote is unlikely to significantly impact S3898’s chances of clearing the mandatory Finance Committee hurdle, however, where it garnered a greater-than-three-fourths margin last time around. Nor is the measure likely to fail if it receives another full Senate vote, just as it’s likely NY Governor Andrew Cuomo, always amenable to new revenue streams for the state, would sign an online-poker measure as well.

Alas, the primary roadblock to online-poker legalization in New York remains the state’s Assembly, where companion legislation has died in each of the past years. Like Bonacic’s Senate Bill, Rep. Gary Pretlow’s Assembly Bill 5250 (A5250) has also been reactivated for 2018, but as of yet, it has received no consideration.

That situation may not change. Pretlow, who has sponsored the bill but has always found reasons to move it forward or even bring it to a vote, may well be laying the groundwork for similar inaction in 2018. In a recent interview with OnlinePokerReport, Pretlow blamed omen for the online-poker bill’s failure in 2017.

“It seems women are opposed to gambling or gaming, and it got a little heated,” Pretlow told OPR. “There’s opposition to the legislation by a lot of female members of the Assembly, and the Speaker decided we should wait to get it straightened out. But now I know which ones to deal with and that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to redouble my efforts, as the expression goes.”

This appears to be a crock of shit, as far as the bill’s passability goes. Women make up less than 23% of the New York Assembly, and there was very little split in the NY Senate between men and women when voting on Bonacic’s version.

Instea, Pretlow appears to be creating a false faction to blame when he trades off online-poker consideration in favor of some other bill he values more. Pretlow’s previous years’ efforts is shown that he might not be against online poker, but he’s more than willing to shove it to the side for other gains. He did it with the daily fantasy sports (DFS) topic before, and with full-blown sports betting a possible hot topic in New York, there’s every indication online poker will again get short shrift.

The problem is, Pretlow sits in a similar position as Bonacic; Pretlow chairs the Assembly version of the Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee, and thus has significant control over what forms of gambling expansion in New York are allowed to be considered. Until such time as Pretlow fully embraces online poker, or he’s replaced by someone else who will, the game might have to wait.

Fortunately, the recurring passage of Bonacic’s Senate bill, as happened last week, keeps the pressure on to a certain extent. Here’s hoping that New York’s true online poker backers recognize Pretlow’s game and force him to give a bill a real chance. It’s well past time for that to occur.

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