New York Senate Finance Committee Advances John Bonacic's Online Poker Legislation

New York Senate Finance Committee Advances Online Poker Bill; Now It Moves To The Full Senate

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On Tuesday the New York Senate Finance Committee passed Sen. John Bonacic’s online poker bill, S 3898. The committee passed by a voice vote without debate or discussion. The bill now advances to the full Senate for consideration.

Two Senate committees passed the proposal this year. The Senate Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee Bonacic chairs unanimously approved the bill back in February.

The Senate’s budget also included online poker before the New York Assembly stripped it out.

Highs and lows for NY online poker in 2016

New York’s online poker’s chances have been tough to handicap over the past two years.

Last year, supporters of legal online poker were ecstatic when the NY Senate passed an online poker bill (also sponsored by Sen. Bonacic) by an overwhelming 53-5 margin.

Unfortunately, the feeling of ecstasy quickly turned into frustration. The Assembly never even considered the bill. The 2016 legislative session came to a close without a vote on online poker.

Following the Assembly’s failure to act on the legislation, Assemblyman Gary Pretlow produced a smorgasbord of reasons for the inaction. Pretlow cited everything from a lack of votes to concerns about cheating and technology, and even raised questions about poker’s skillfulness at one point.

Pretlow is the chairman of the Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee. This makes him the de facto gatekeeper for all things gambling in the Assembly.

Can New York do the job in 2017?

Despite its history of online poker obstructionism, there have been signs of progress from the Assembly this year.

In February, Pretlow said in an interview with local press, “I don’t really see there’s going to be much opposition to moving this [online poker] along.”

In the same interview, Pretlow said all of his previous concerns about legalizing online poker were satisfied after a trip to New Jersey. With his worries abated, Pretlow indicated he would put his support behind the bill, which he believes improves its odds.

“When I do sign off on something, my colleagues feel that it is a good deal and they don’t question why I made a certain decision,” Pretlow said. “They know that if that decision was made, it’s for good reason.”

Optimistic rhetoric aside, not much has changed in the Assembly when it comes to actions. As noted above, this year’s online poker bill was included in the Senate budget. But once again, the Assembly played the role of Scrooge and removed online poker from the budget.

During this year’s budget discussions, Pretlow told Online Poker Report, “It won’t be in the final budget, I don’t believe, because there are people opposed to it who are higher than me and don’t want it in the budget.”

But Pretlow went on to tell OPR that “they” wanted to tackle online poker as a separate issue in order to fully vet the proposal, rather than include it in a larger piece of legislation.

The passage by the Senate Finance Committee is hopefully the first step in that process.

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- 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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