NY Online Poker Made Progress In 2016, No Matter Outcome

Key Lawmaker Now Says New York Online Poker Faces Long Odds: A Look Back And Ahead

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New York has been thinking about legalizing online poker for several years now, but with recent comments from a key lawmaker in the state, the effort may have to wait yet another year.

Here’s a look at where the process stands in New York, how it got here, and where it might be going.

The current online poker outlook for 2016

The most serious effort to regulate online poker in the state has come this year. Early in the year, the bill looked like it would get a major push, as two important lawmakers in the state appeared to be on the same page.

The chairmen of the gaming committees in both chambers — Rep. Gary Pretlow and Sen. John Bonacicintroduced identical legislation. The bill quickly passed a committee vote in the Senate, and was at one point included in the Senate version of the state budget.

But the standalone bill has languished ever since the historic committee passage — it was the first time a poker bill made it past any vote — and poker didn’t make it into the final budget.

And that lack of progress was further dampened by comments by Pretlow during last week’s iGaming North America Conference.

“On the other hand with online poker, there are some issues there and we’re not really prepared to introduce legislation that’s going to go to the floor for a vote, so you’re looking at a 100-to-one shot to hit the floor,” Pretlow said on a panel. He also said during the panel the legislation was triggering some “constitutional issues.”

The latest characterization from Pretlow has certainly down-graded expectations for online poker happening this year.

The online poker landscape prior to 2016

While online poker had been on New York’s radar prior to this year, the chatter and progress had been pretty minimal:

It appears, in some ways, that the past has set the stage for this year’s progress, and perhaps more momentum for this year and next.

2016 and beyond for NY online poker

Pretlow characterized New York’s online poker effort as moving ahead “slowly” at iGNA.

However, Pretlow has also, at times, been more bullish on poker’s prospects, even as recently as a few weeks ago, per a GamblingCompliance report in March (paywall). In February, Pretlow indicated he was pumping the brakes on online poker.

So, at this point, it’s clear that online poker is in a very fluid situation, and that Pretlow’s handicapping of legislation’s chances changes from week to week and month to month.

Despite the similarities in the mechanics of regulating online daily fantasy sports, it appears that poker will not necessarily piggyback on a DFS legislative effort. Pretlow classified the chances of a DFS bill passing as “even money” at iGNA.

But there have been signs of progress for poker.

The new casinos

One of the stumbling blocks, previously, had been the new land-based casinos in New York that are in progress, and their ability to be a part of NY online poker. But that appears to be less of a concern, at least from Pretlow’s perspective. More from Pretlow at iGNA:

“We just licensed four land-based casinos and none of them have opened yet. And when the online poker proposal came up, I had stated originally that I wouldn’t be really pushing to have this vote online until at least the land-based casinos got up and running — unless I had assurances from all four of the licensees that they would ether a. be a part of it or b. didn’t have any issues with it.

I have gotten an assurance from three and the fourth one right now is saying that they may not be interested in being involved with it.”

So, that part of the equation is closer to resolution.


The New York Gaming Association previously had been lukewarm on online poker efforts.

But that changed recently, as NYGA President James Featherstonhaugh was supportive of the amended online poker bills on the table this year. That seemingly removes yet another possible speed bump for online poker.

Takeaway for this year and 2017

The bottom line? Progress may seem slow, sometimes imperceptible and often extremely incremental.

But progress, nonetheless, is being made. And that bodes well for the future, even if online poker doesn’t happen this year.

Image Victoria Lipov / Shutterstock.com

- 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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