Twin Online Poker Bills Now Introduced in New York State

Updated: February 9th, 2017 by Dev Ops

Add New York to the short list of US states that might make 2017 the year that online poker is officially authorized and regulated within its borders.  On Tuesday, New York State Representative Gary Pretlow introduced Assembly Bill 5250 (A05250), which would legalize “certain interactive poker games” as skill rather than as games of luck.

New York’s stringent anti-gambling codes make such a definition a necessary part of any online-gambling bill that should be proposed for passage.  The same rules were part of the state’s initial, high-profile resistance to daily fantasy sports (DFS), especially a major lawsuit against DFS’s largest operators, FanDuel and DraftKings.

new-york-empire-stateYet all that is really a secondary part of this latest New York legalization effort.  Greater in importance is that this bill is a mirror copy of the online-poker regulatory measure, Senate Bill 3898 (S03898), that was introduced by State Sen. John Bonacic last month.

Veteran watchers of online poker’s state-by-state battle toward legalization within the US may remember what happened in New York in 2016.  Last year, a very similar bill sponsored by Sen. Bonacic sailed through the state’ Senate on a 53-5 vote.  However, Rep. Pretlow then allowed his own version of an online-poker bill to die in the New York Assembly without a vote.  Pretlow blamed others for his pulling back of the bill, citing both resistance from other NY House members and confusion over some of the bill’s workings as reasons for the dwindling support.

This year, excepting the differing nomenclature, Bonacic and Pretlow have introduced identical bills, rather than just largely similar ones.  In theory, the extra cross-chamber cooperation should ease the bill’s passe through both chambers, and on to the desk of NY Governor Andrew Cuomo.  New York still isn’t the likeliest state to legalize online poker in 2017 — that honor goes to neighboring Pennsylvania — but this might be the year the nation’s second-most populous state goes online with state-authorized poker products.

Both the Bonacic and Pretlow bills carry the same legislative summary, which focuses on creating a skill-games exemption for poker.  It’s the same approach the state used to legalize DFS offerings last year:

Allows certain interactive poker games be considered games of skill rather than games of luck; includes definitions, authorization, required safeguards and minimum standards, the scope of licensing review and state tax implications; makes corresponding penal law amendments.

As noted in several outlets, New York’s DFS-legalizing law has been challenged in court by the fanatic anti-gambling group Stop Predatory Gambling.  The group, largely from the US’s extreme religious far-right, generally opposes all forms of gambling as being sinful behavior, and has focused in particular on online-gambling expansion matters.  Should the group be successful in its DFS-related lawsuit in New York, a challenge against any approved online poker in New York could also be forthcoming.

The latest bills counteract that in their definitions by declaring that in poker, the participants play against each other, and New York, as asserted by Bonacic and Pretlow, consistently finds such contests to be games of skill.  The bills would authorize both Texas Hold’em and Omaha, today’s two most common poker variants.

Several other industry-related specifics remain unchanged from their 2016 iterations.  Under the terms of the bills, New York could offer up to 11 such interactive, online-poker licenses, in conjunction with gaming licenses already issued to New York-based facilities.  Each applicant/licensee would be regarded to pony up a $10 million license fee, which, if the license was granted, would be in effect for ten years.  The $10 million would serve as an offset against taxes owed to the state.

Neither the Pretlow bill nor the Bonacic measure has received a vote to date, nor have any hearings been scheduled.

Comments are closed.