Bonacic Indicates Online Poker Could Find Its Way Into New York State Budget

Online Poker Bill On The ‘Front Burner’ In New York, Says Key Supporter In Senate

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The effort to legalize online poker in New York took its first step forward this week, as legislation passed out of a Senate committee unanimously.

The bill’s author in the Senate also said he plans to make online poker a “front burner” topic in the statehouse this year.

The movement for NY online poker

The Senate Racing, Wagering and Gaming Committee considered the online poker bill — S 3898 — on Tuesday. There, the committee unanimously approved the legislation from Sen. John Bonacic, 11-0.

Bonacic also spoke with GamblingCompliance (paywall) about his legislation. Bonacic has high hopes this year, after the bill failed to make it to the finish line in 2016.

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“Last year, there was too much gaming for the Assembly to consider with fantasy sports and the efforts in New Jersey for a referendum to put a casino in the Meadowlands, and I really think that it got put on the back burner,” said Bonacic. “So now we are putting it in the front burner.”

The bill now heads to a vote in the Senate Finance Committee before possibly facing a vote in the full chamber.

The backstory of NY and online poker

The Senate was the scene of all the action for online poker last year. Bonacic introduced his bill and got it passed through the Senate by an overwhelming margin.

The sticking point last year was the Assembly, where an identical bill from Assemblymember J. Gary Pretlow saw no action. Pretlow chairs the Assembly’s committee on gaming issues.

Pretlow is again the key for online poker’s progress in New York; he introduced his bill again just last week.

Given the past success for online poker in the Senate, it seems like a safe bet the bill would pass that chamber again. Whether Pretlow is on board with online poker and Bonacic is the variable that will make or break the bill once again.

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NY, the budget and NY online poker

The state is already considering plans for its next budget, with Gov. Andrew Cuomo revealing his proposal.

Bonacic indicated that he will attempt to put online poker in a budget bill, as well, an effort that failed last year and in years past. The state is facing a $3.5 billion deficit, according to the New York Times, a shortfall that the legalization of online poker could help to fill with licensing fees and taxes on operators.

The calculus is a little different than in Pennsylvania, which is wholeheartedly looking to online gambling for revenue during its budget crisis.

It’s not clear online poker regulation will figure into budget talks in the Empire State, and it may continue on its own path as the standalone bill advanced by Bonacic.

- 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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