'Bad actor' language targeting PokerStars is similar to California

New ‘Bad Actor’ Language In NY Online Poker Bill Casts More Doubt On Its Already Cloudy Future

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The New York Senate amended legislation that would legalize online poker in the state, adding language that could hurt the bill’s already tenuous chances of becoming law.

The latest on the NY online poker bill

The Senate amended the bill — S 3898 — with “bad actor” language on Monday. When determining suitability for an online poker license in the state, gaming regulators must take into account if the potential licensee:

(i) has at any time, either directly, or through another person whom it owned, in whole or in significant part, or controlled:

(A) knowingly and willfully accepted or made available wagers on interactive gaming (including poker) from persons located in the United States after December thirty-first, two thousand six, unless such wagers were affirmatively authorized by law of the United States or of each state in which persons making such wagers were located ..

More from a spokesperson from sponsor, Sen. John Bonacic, on the changes to the bill:

“Senator Bonacic amended the online poker bill to provide the Gaming Commission with the opportunity to take into consideration an applicant’s prior bad acts in relation to determining suitability for a license. He is committed to moving the bill forward and looking forward to working with his colleagues in the Senate and Assembly to do so.”

What that language does for the online poker dynamic in NY

That language would refer to any online poker or gambling site that operated in the US after the enactment of the UIGEA in 2006.

That, obviously, would appear to target PokerStars, now owned by Amaya. PokerStars operated in the US from 2006 until 2011’s Black Friday. That’s when it was forced out of the market by the US Department of Justice.

Such language has been the sticking point in California, which has failed to pass an online poker bill for a decade. Similar language in legislation would serve to keep PokerStars/Amaya out of that market, as well.

An interesting part of the story is that former Amaya CEO David Baazov made an allegedly illegal contribution to Gov. Andrew Cuomo‘s 2014 gubernatorial campaign. While Online Poker Report doesn’t have any direct insight into why the bill language was added, it’s feasible to think this played a role.

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What’s next for NY online poker

The NY legislature is slated to adjourn later this month. That gives it a short window to try to pass online poker.

The bill introduced earlier in the year by Bonacic had been dormant since reaching the Senate floor in May. Later, a pair of committees approved the bill.

The bill appears likely to come up for a vote in the Senate. However, chambers in the state rarely vote on bills that are likely to be defeated. (Translation: If there’s no vote, the votes likely aren’t there for the bill.) Last year, it passed easily, 53-5.

The bad actor language shifts the dynamic, however, in a way that could result in negative lobbying — from Amaya if not other parties — that didn’t exist previously.

No matter what language appears in the bill, it faces an uncertain future. Despite the progress for online poker in 2016, the Assembly refused to take up the bill. Assemblymember J. Gary Pretlow has consistently pumped the brakes on iPoker in New York, for a variety of reasons.

We don’t what online poker’s fate is in the Senate or the Assembly. But we will find out whether the state will act in the coming weeks, one way or the other.

- 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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