NY Assembly Online Poker Bill 2017

Pretlow’s New Bill Puts New York In Position To Legalize And Regulate Online Poker

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The legislative pieces are now in place for New York to legalize online poker following the introduction today of Assemblyman Gary Pretlow’s A5250.

The bill is identical to S3893, introduced in January by Sen. John Bonacic.

Building on the progress of 2016

New York and Pennsylvania made the most progress in 2016 toward passing bills to regulate online poker (Pennsylvania’s effort also included online casino games).

2016 was a year of multiple legislative milestones for New York’s online poker effort, including the first successful committee vote for an online poker bill and Senate passage of the bill.

But the optimism generated by those milestones was tempered by Pretlow’s negative outlook for online poker in the Assembly.

Despite a 53-5 margin in the Senate, Pretlow declared the bill dead in the Assembly, telling GamblingCompliance that “there are still some entities in my house that have issues with it.”

Pretlow’s complicated path on poker

Despite having proposed bills to regulate online poker for the last three sessions, Pretlow has over time expressed varying, and often ambivalent, attitudes toward the activity.

“In poker, you’re betting and you’re changing the bet by raising. That’s gambling. In my legislative finding, I found DFS is not gambling. I can’t find that poker is not gambling,” Pretlow told PokerNews in June of 2016.

New York’s constitution effectively prohibits the legislative expansion of gambling. That’s among the primary reasons why the state is seeking to legalize online poker alone, as opposed to online poker and casino games.

Pretlow and Bonacic’s legislative effort defines poker as a game of skill, a classification that allows the bill to escape the prohibition on gambling. The same approach was employed in 2016 legislation that authorized daily fantasy sports contests.

Numerous studies covering both cash game and tournament poker play have concluded that skill predominates luck in determining outcomes over the long run.

Pretlow also flagged cheating concerns in his interview with PokerNews. “I still have issues with people cheating […] It’s a serious question I’ve had for a while, and it hasn’t been proven to me that doesn’t happen.”

Both concerns seemed to have abated.

Pretlow told GamblingCompliance in January that he “wasn’t aware of” the stringent security measures around online poker play put in place by regulators in New Jersey.

Pretlow went on to comment that “we do have legislation that is good,” an apparent reference to earlier worries that an online poker bill might not pass constitutional muster.

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Challenge to DFS law could intersect with NY online poker

Daily fantasy sports may be providing a preview of what’s to come for online poker should lawmakers in New York successfully pass a bill into law.

In one of the stranger twists of the DFS saga, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is currently defending New York’s DFS bill against a lawsuit from anti-gambling group Stop Predatory Gambling.

The lawsuit claims that the bill represents an expansion of gambling, and therefore is in violation of the state’s constitution, forcing Schneiderman – one of the most vocal agitators of the DFS industry – to argue that DFS is not gambling.

A similar challenge may well be mounted should online poker be legalized in New York.

- Chris is the publisher of OnlinePokerReport.com. Grove also serves as a consultant to various stakeholders in the regulated market for online gambling in the United States.
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