NY Senate has twice passed online poker bill
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New York Online Poker Bills Stir To Life As 2018 Legislative Session Begins

NY online poker 2018
A pair of New York online poker bills are officially back on the table as the legislative session begins in the state.

NY online poker back, back again

The two bills in the NY legislature that were in play in 2017 — A 5250 and S 3898 — are still alive for the 2018 session. They do not start exactly where they left off, however.

The Senate version, which passed that chamber in June, returns to the Senate. According to legislative tracking, its now back in the Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee.

The Assembly never took up the Senate version of the bill. The Assembly version had made it through a single committee vote; it now sits in the Codes Committee.

Online poker has been on the legislature’s radar for the past several years. It has twice passed the Senate, also making it through that chamber in 2016.

When will we see action in New York?

There generally has not been a lot of will to move online poker quickly early in legislative sessions. Still, because progress has been made in the past, there’s at least reason to think things could be different in 2018.

Here’s what Assemblymember J. Gary Pretlow told Online Poker Report in the summer:

“Part of the reason nothing happens in the early part of the session is we have to get committees up and running again and start from scratch,” Pretlow said. “That will not be the case here. I hope to address the bill in February.”

Pretlow is the sponsor of the Assembly version and the chair of that chamber’s gaming committee.

Unless something changes, it appears to be a foregone conclusion that online poker can pass the Senate at any point. Both times it advanced, it did so by lopsided margins.

The question is if the Assembly has the appetite for action. In the past, Pretlow has indicated that is a difficult proposition.

New York needs money

Like many states, New York enters the year with a budget problem. The projected deficit the state is facing is in excess of $4 billion.

It’s not unlike the situation in Pennsylvania, which passed a gaming package to help bridge a budget shortfall. Of course, PA legalized online casino games, which will have a much bigger impact on state revenue than just online poker, which is all NY is considering at present. The revenue from licensing and taxation of online poker would be a relative drop in the bucket in trying to bridge the budget gap.

Regardless, it’s an easy way for the state to generate revenue that would also help out the state’s new commercial casinos, which haven’t quite found their footing early on in terms of meeting projected revenue. (Online gambling has proven to be a good marketing tool for acquiring new or lapsed casino customers.)

And we know the climate for US online poker is improving. New Jersey online poker sites are going to pool poker players with Delaware and Nevada, likely in 2018. PA could also join that interstate compact as soon as this year.

The addition of New York would create a potential online poker market larger than California. That means we’re starting to talk about real money. (The NJ online poker industry by itself is currently hovering around $2 million a month in revenue).

Sen. John Bonacic — the sponsor of the Senate version of the poker bill — noted the budget issue after Gov. Andrew Cuomo gave his state of the state address:

“With a projected $4 billion budget deficit, we will have to make important decisions this legislative session. I am committed to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, and in both houses, to see that the people’s business is done.”

Also of note: There have been past efforts to include online poker in the state budget. Those all failed, however.

So is 2018 the year for NY online poker? The wait is officially back on.

Image credit: Richard Cavalleri / Shutterstock.com

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Dustin Gouker
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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.