NY online poker bill met resistance in committee; future uncertain before legislature adjourns next week

New York Online Poker Chances: ‘Slim, But Not Very Slim’ Lawmaker Says

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After hearing from New York Assemblymember J. Gary Pretlow about the issues he’s having in trying to move his online poker bill at the end of this session, I responded that it sounds like the chances for this year are very slim.

“I would say they’re slim, but not very slim,” Pretlow clarified in the phone interview.

So you’re telling me there’s a chance?

Pretlow moved the legislation, the companion piece to the bill passed by the Senate on Tuesday, through his Racing, Wagering and Gaming Committee yesterday.

That leaves three more steps (Codes, Ways and Means, then Rules committees) the bill would have to take before advancing to the Assembly floor, where it needs to reach by Monday in order to have the required three-day gestation period before it could be voted on in the expected late-night, early-morning hours carrying over from the final day of the session June 21.

The bill is now in the Codes Committee, and it’s not expected to get out before the end of the session.

“I believe they have some issues that may not be resolved by the middle of next week,” Pretlow said. “I’ve heard they have some constitutional issues and disagreements over the penalties. Some people say we don’t have strong enough penalties for bad actor, while some people say the penalties are too strong.”

Codes is chaired by Assemblymember Joseph R. Lentol, a Democrat representing north Brooklyn.

Pretlow asserted that he will be fighting for the bill in these final days, and that he’s faced this same scenario before and come out victorious.

“I’ve been known to work miracles at times,” he said. “I had the same situation with daily fantasy sports, and we got that done on the last day in almost the exact same situation.”

New York legislative procedure

As the session in New York comes to an end, committees have been shut down. They can only meet if the Assembly Speaker or Rules Committee order a special committee meeting. That is what occurred yesterday for Racing, Wagering and Gaming to advance the bill.

For the Codes Committee to even have the opportunity to address online poker, it would need to be opened by the speaker or Rules, and there are no indications that either are inclined to do so.

The Assembly Speaker is Carl E. Heastie, a Democrat representing the northeast Bronx.

Pretlow didn’t amend the bill to match the Senate version before moving it through his committee, and he indicated that the reason was to give Codes time to address the bill. If he added the amendments, there would be a three-day waiting period before it got to Codes.

The bill should be considered identical to the amended Senate version, according to Pretlow.

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Bad-actor language

One of those amendments is bad-actor language that calls on regulators, when considering licensing suitability, to view in a negative light operators (namely PokerStars / Amaya) that didn’t leave the US market following the passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act in 2006.

Pretlow specified that he is against such language, which he considers to be based on the lobbying efforts of MGM, but wouldn’t let it prevent the bill from passing. In the amendment’s current form, the language is more of a suggestion than a ban.

“I think the way it was written, it seems to be attacking one particular company, and I don’t think that’s what we want to do,” Pretlow said. “I think we want to move into the future.”

How online poker can still pass this session

As Sen. John Bonacic mentioned earlier this week, the closing of legislative sessions in New York is a weird and wonderful time when a thousand bills come up for consideration, and whether or not they pass often comes down to leverage.

The Senate obviously wants online poker to bring revenues to the state. It passed bills with ease this session and last.

Pretlow noted that the New York chambers are currently at an impasse over mayoral control of schools in New York cities. The Assembly wants it, and the Senate does not.

“If it could somehow get tied up in the negotiation for that, it’ll have a chance,” Pretlow said.

- Matthew began writing about legislative efforts to regulate online poker in 2007 after UIGEA interfered with his hobby of playing small-stakes online poker while working as a sportswriter at the Los Angeles Daily News. Covering the topic for Bluff Magazine, PokerNews and now Online Poker Report, he has interviewed four U.S. Congressmen and 40+ state legislators. His poker writing has been cited by The Atlantic, Politico.com and CNN.com. Matt also has written on a variety of topics for Playboy Magazine, Men's Journal, Los Angeles magazine, LA Weekly and ESPN.com.
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