Gaming Committee Chairman Pretlow Introduces Poker Legislation; Senate Bill Alive As Well

Third Time’s The Charm? New York Online Poker Bill Introduced Again In Legislature

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Online poker is officially in the legislature again in New York for 2016.

The basics of the online poker bill

Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow, head of the Assembly Committee on Racing and Wagering, introduced a bill that would legalize and regulate online poker in the state — A9049. At the same time, a Senate version of the bill — S5302 — has been brought back from the 2015 session earlier in January.

Of course, bills have been introduced in the past two years, as well — including once by Pretlow — with no real progress accompanying those bills, other than lawmakers talking about the issues.

The bill looks much like the one Pretlow introduced in 2014, with a few tweaks.

What does the bill do?

The bill sets up a regulatory scheme for online poker in the state, while making it explicitly legal:

  • Defines poker as a game of skill, not a game of chance, under state gaming law.
  • Authorizes basic variants of poker while allowing the gaming commission to determine whether other versions are allowed.
  • Allows up to 10 licenses to operate online poker sites.
  • The license fee is $10 million, and is good for 10 years.
  • The tax rate is 15% of gross gaming revenue.
  • Entering into an agreement to share liquidity with other states — like the compact between Nevada and Delaware — is allowed.
  • The gaming commission is put in charge of consumer protection standards regarding age, geolocation, segregation of player funds, etc.

What is different?

The bill is mostly a repeat of the 2014 efforts, with a few tweaks.

  • There is no longer a “bad actor” provision that would prevent operators who were taking U.S. customers after the passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (i.e. PokerStars). A bill introduced by Sen. John Bonacic last year had already done away with this provision. The fact that PokerStars is now owned by Amaya and received a license in New Jersey has taken the steam out of using “bad actor” language in legislation.
  • The license fee “shall be applied as an offset against the taxes paid over the first thirty-six months of operation.” This does not appear in the current Senate version of the bill.

What’s next for the online poker bill?

The next step would be for the bill to be considered in the committee Pretlow chairs. An informational hearing on online poker was held in the Senate in 2015.

Given the relative lack of momentum for online poker in the past, its chances of advancing in the legislature don’t seem great on the surface. But 2016 offers a few differences from past years that could change the equation in New York:

While the bill’s ultimate success is an unknown, at least having the bill active in front of the legislature has to be seen as a positive development.

- Dustin Gouker has been a sports journalist for more than 15 years, working as a reporter, editor and designer -- including stops at The Washington Post and the D.C. Examiner. He has played poker recreationally for his entire adult life and has written about poker since 2008.
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