NY online poker is first up, as legislature adjourns next week

New York, Illinois And Pennsylvania Are Coming Down To The Wire On Online Gambling

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The next few weeks loom as the biggest in the short history of regulated US online poker and gambling, with action expected in three states.

What’s on tap for online gambling bills

  • New York will decide whether to legalize online poker as the legislative session comes to a close next week.
  • An Illinois online casino and daily fantasy sports hybrid bill will get a look during a special session before the close of the month.
  • The House and Senate in Pennsylvania will try to agree on an omnibus gaming bill that includes iGaming and DFS.

As we gear up for the home stretch, none of these bills happening is a certainty. But we can take a moment to appreciate the fact that four different legislative bodies have passed bills that would legalize and regulate online gambling.

And we’re still waiting on the first new law to be enacted in the US in years.

New York online poker

The most recent activity we have seen is from New York, where the Assembly advanced a bill out of the Assembly Racing, Wagering and Gaming Committee on Thursday. It still has at least one more committee stop before reaching the full Assembly.

But recent chatter cast doubt on the bill’s chances. Assemblymember J. Gary Pretlow is now suggesting the bill won’t leave the Assembly Codes Committee after running into some strong opposition in recent weeks.

That’s despite the fact that there was some optimism from state Sen. John Bonacic earlier this week. The state Senate approved the iPoker bill this week, repeating an action it took last year.

But last-minute shenanigans are a hallmark of the end of the NY legislative session. That much was clear for gaming observers when the statehouse passed a DFS bill at the 11th hour in 2016. But the Assembly has punted on online poker previously; now, it’s at least getting a late look.

The statehouse is scheduled to close up shop by June 21. We should know by then whether online poker has a chance of being legal in New York in 2017.

Illinois online gambling

Illinois, much like New York, appears likely to come down to the wire. And there’s also little sense of exactly what will happen in the state.

The Illinois Senate already passed an online gambling bill right before its scheduled adjournment at the end of May. That put the ball in the House’s court, although it deferred on taking up the bill at the time.

However, the House agreed to meet in continuous session, meaning bills not yet passed — iGaming included — were still in play. Now, Gov. Bruce Rauner has ordered a special session slated to start on Wednesday as lawmakers try to end a budget impasse that has been going on for more than two years.

Will the online gambling bill be in play? That’s not a certainty. But we do know that iGaming presents an opportunity for tax revenue that can at least put a dent in the state’s budget problems.

Pennsylvania online gambling

The PA House and Senate have both passed bills that would bring regulated online gambling and poker to the Keystone State.

Last week, the House amended and approved the Senate bill, adding in contentious provisions to allow video gaming terminals in taverns. The Senate has so far stood pat on the bill, but action is likely coming soon, according to one key lawmaker.

The state legislature is not under the kind of hard deadlines the preceding states face. But still, nearly everyone involved would like to get a budget passed, trying to erase a shortfall estimated in the billions without quick action.

Again, online gambling is a possible answer for meaningful revenue in the state. But a wide gap exists between the House and Senate versions of the bill, and there are many outcomes in play.

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What will happen for online gambling?

Will Pennsylvania, New York or Illinois reach the finish line for iGaming? Unless you have a functioning crystal ball, no one knows.

But after so much progress in 2017, it would be a disappointment if none of the three joins New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware will legal iGaming.

- 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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