2018 Looms as Pivotal Year in New York State’s Online Poker Talks

Updated: January 17th, 2018 by Dev Ops

2018 has arrived, and with it, another chance that “this will be the year” for regulated online poker in New York State. However, as happened in the past, there’s a chance that legalized and regulated online poker in New York might again get shoved to the side in favor of a more topical gambling matter — in this case, the chance at legalized sports betting.

One thing’s for sure: it’s going to be another interesting year for gambling in New York. Already this decade, the state has legislated an expansion in live “brick and mortar” casino gambling, and also gone ahead and regulated daily fantasy sports (DFS). That DFS legalization came only after a high-profile case filed by New York Attorney General against DFS market leaders DraftKings and FanDuel.

That case ended up being settled, with the understanding, quickly enacted, that DFS would soon be legalized in New York. And so it happened, but the flip side was that online-poker bills in New York were shoved to the side under the pretense of too much gambling expansion occurring in the state all at once.

Funny thing is, that could happen again in 2018. This time, however, it’s the prospect of legalized sports betting… which might have some interesting side effects on that legalized, fledgling DFS market as well. New Yorkers, though, are closely monitoring the happenings in the “Christie II” sports-betting appeal before the US Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court, or SCOTUS, as it’s commonly called, is expected to issue its decision later this year. And if appellant New Jersey wins its challenge, then the US’s hated “PASPA” (Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, which bans sports betting in 46 of the 50 US states) will likely go away.

The end of PASPA, though, would benefit far more than New Jersey. A whole raft of US states are lining up to consider legalizing sports betting if New Jersey prevails, and New York, though no related bill has yet been filed, will certainly be among them. And sports betting will have more gravitas in New York’s capital of Albany than will online poker, should the two forms of gambling expansion end up competing for votes.

That’s the way it is, sadly. Legalized online poker will come to New York in the near future, though for 2018 specifically, it may have a greater chance if New Jersey’s PASPA challenge should fail.

At least there are active legislative measures in New York for online poker legalization, though if and when they’ll be readdressed remains unclear. In each of the past two calendar years, New York’s state Senate has approved an online-poker bill, only to see companion legislation die in the state’s Assembly without being called for a vote. 2018, in fact, begins with the same pair of bills considered last year.

In the New York Senate, that’s Sen. John Bonacic’s S3898. Bonacic’s bill easily passed a full Senate vote last year, but starts 2018 back in Bonacic’s own Committee on Racing, Gaming and Wagering. New York’s legal rules allow bills to be considered during a rolling two-year session — the current one being 2017-18. Bills not passed during 2018 aren’t totally dead, but are instead returned to their originating committee for another try in 2018, which is the case for Bonacic and his S3898 measure.

The same holds true over in New York’s Assembly, where Rep. Gary Pretlow and his A5250 bill are also due for another try. Like the Senate version of the online poker bill, A5250 has also been returned to the Assembly’s Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee.

Whether that bill receives any votes, however, is the other focal point for 2018. In both 2016 and 2017, Pretlow has professed broad support for legalized New York online poker, put together a bill mirroring Bonacic’s Senate measure, and then shied away from calling his own Assembly bill for a vote.

This Assembly non-movement could also recur in 2018, for much the same reasons. And if Rep. Pretlow might be searching for another reason to keep the lid on online poker in New York, the prospect of legalized sports betting could indeed give him that reason.

Still, there’s room for optimism. Pennsylvania’s recent legalization of online poker means that three of New York’s immediate neighbors have joined the poker party.. New Yorkers can also eye nearby New Jersey and Delaware, and see more revenue that, right now, New York isn’t collecting.

It’s an interesting mix, amid what will be another interesting year.

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