NY Online Poker Bill Passes Out Of Committee But Faces A Rocky Road Ahead

New York Online Poker Bill Passes Senate Finance Committee, Heads To Senate Floor And Uncertain Future

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On Thursday morning, the New York Senate Finance Committee quickly passed Senator John Bonacic’s online poker legalization bill, S5302. The bill will now head to the Senate floor for future consideration.

Online poker still a long shot

Momentum of any kind is certainly welcome.

But based on the comments of a key figure in the New York Assembly, as well as the lack of public hearings on the topic, online poker legalization in the Empire State appears to be a long shot.

In a column at LegalSportsReport.com, Dustin Gouker reported Assemblyman Gary Pretlow was “pessimistic” when it comes to online poker this session. And Pretlow would be the best measuring stick of the bill’s support, considering he’s the sponsor of the assembly’s online poker bill.

In April, Pretlow spoke at the iGaming North America conference and said online poker’s chances were about 1 in 100 to even get to the floor for a vote. Moments later he said it was 1 in 1,000.

And Pretlow doesn’t appear to be a pessimist by nature. At iGNA he listed DFS’s chances at 50/50, and more recently said his DFS bill should have “smooth sailing.”

Breaking down Thursday’s Finance Committee hearing

There really isn’t much to report from the hearing, as S5302’s discussion time lasted less than one minute.

Thursday’s vote by the Finance Committee was a simple up or down affair, with no debate and only brief comments offered. It passed the Finance Committee by a 20-8 vote, with some votes being cast in absentia.

In a brief remark during the hearing, Senator Liz Krueger said of the bill (this may not be a direct quote as the audio quality for the hearing was extremely poor), “I think there are very broad ramifications for online poker in the state,” adding that there should be public hearings so the community has an opportunity to weigh in on a “dramatic change” to gambling. Senator Krueger was a no vote.

The vote was similar to the 9-0 vote Bonacic’s bill received in the Senate Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee back in February.

As noted, these votes can certainly be termed as progress. But unlike what we’ve seen in other states pursuing online gaming legalization, there haven’t been any recent hearings in New York, or anything that would approach a robust debate.

What we are seeing in New York appears to be movement for the sake of movement, or to set up a stronger push in 2017.

Another possible explanation for the votes is that Bonacic’s online poker bill is being positioned just in case an opening appears. The most likely cause of this opening would be daily fantasy sports.

The DFS question

There are two competing schools of thought on New York when it comes to the relationship between online poker and daily fantasy sports.

The first point of view is that the state won’t act on online poker until it solves what is the much thornier issue of daily fantasy sports. With DFS facing legal action from Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, there is added pressure on the legislature to get a bill passed that will head off an impending court battle between the state and FanDuel and DraftKings.

And with so little time remaining in the session, it is improbable that lawmakers will pass a DFS bill and then move on to online poker.

The second point of view holds that online poker could piggyback off of DFS’s progress through the legislature, and the two issues could be handled together.

This seems like even more of a long shot, particularly considering the lack of enthusiasm surrounding online poker legalization in the New York Assembly.

- Steve covers nearly every angle of online poker in his job as a full-time freelance poker writer. His primary focus for OPR is the developing legal and legislative picture for regulated US online poker and gambling.
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