New York Online Poker Bill Clears Senate Committee, But Larger Hurdles Loom

Updated: May 11th, 2017 by Dev Ops

The latest New York State online-poker bill cleared its Senate committee vote on Thursday, though an imposing and time-shortened schedule still looms as an obstacle that might be too high for the increasingly popular legislation to clear in 2017.  On Tuesday, the On Tuesday, the New York State Senate Finance Committee approved John Bonacic’s S3898, by a vote of 27-9.

That’s the good news; from here S3898 goes on to a possible full Senate vote, where it could easily pass as well.  It’s already been added to the NY Senate’s floor calendar, though any possible vote remains uncertain and unscheduled.

Senatorial success, however, is only half the battle, and it’s the easier half as that.  Once again, formal legalization of intrastate online poker in New York depends more on the state’s Assembly, where last year’s similar legislation died without being brought up for a vote.

The key man in Assembly remains NY State Rep. Gary Pretlow, who has endorsed this year’s version of Pretlow’s bill.  However, Pretlow still seems to be hemming and hawing on the matter despite receiving demonstrations of the core technology’s effectiveness at things such as blocking underage gambling.

On the plus side, as he told FIOS1 News’ Andrew Whitman following this week’s vote, “When I do sign off on something, my colleagues feel that it is a good deal and they don’t question why I made a certain decision. They know that if that decision was made, it’s for good reason. So I don’t really see there’s going to be much opposition to moving this along.”

Whitlow, though, also published a Tweet storm which suggests things may not be quite that simple.  Some excerpted Tweets:

After indirectly noting that NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo would likely be on board with any revenue-generating proposal, Whitman then relayed Pretlow’s comments on another potential hurdle:

Pretlow then indicated that the next three weeks would be critical, after which time the legalization bill would again run out of time, likely not even being brought up for a vote.

To reprise, here are the important elements of Bonacic’s S3898 bill:

  • A $10 million licensing fee, with a maximum of ten (10) approved operators; this would provide an immediate income stream of $100 million in licensing revenue for New York if all ten licenses were issued; licenses would be good for 10 years;
  • As with the state’s new and under-development land-based casinos, the online sites and operators would be regulated by the New York State Gaming Commission and Division of Gaming;
  • 15% tax rate on gross gaming revenue (GGR);
  • Most forms of poker to be allowed, with Texas Hold’em and Omaha specifically approved;
  • Allows for interstate gaming compacts, allowing for the pooling of players with other states;
  • Declares that the offering of online gaming by unlicensed operators is a crime, subject to both taxation on money wagered as well as criminal penalties for the unlicensed operators;
  • Calls for a 180-day grace period following passage and signing of the law before its provisions would go into effect, and any new licenses could be issued.

It’s likely the next news on New York’s attempt to legalize online poker will develop in early to mid-June.  We’ll be back then with the latest.

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