Female members of the New York Assembly are keeping the state from legalizing and regulating online poker, according to bill author Gary Pretlow.
The Assembly failed to move on his legislation the past two years after companion bills introduced by Sen. John Bonacic have been passed by the Senate.
“It seems women are opposed to gambling or gaming, and it got a little heated,” Pretlow said. “There’s opposition to the legislation by a lot of female members of the Assembly, and the Speaker decided we should wait to get it straightened out. But now I know which ones to deal with and that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to redouble my efforts, as the expression goes.”
June gloom for NY online poker
There are two staples of the Empire State that don’t make sense to outsiders but will never change: Pedestrians ignore the red hands telling them not to walk and the legislature waits until the final weeks of the legislative session in June to pass the bulk of its bills.
Pretlow expressed some optimism last year that online poker could be addressed earlier this session because of a new carry-over policy for bills in a legislative term, but now he’s resigned to the bill taking the normal New York route of not being addressed until time’s up.
“It will probably end up being a June push again, unless there’s reasons for otherwise,” Pretlow said. “Right now we’re going into budget mode, and all February we’re lost in the budget. Then the middle of March we’ll be fighting over things, and on April 1 the budget is passed. Then April, May and June is when all the work gets done.”
Pretlow, who chairs the Assembly Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee, noted that A 5250 is starting off in the Codes Committee, where it left off last year after he got it through his committee.
The Senate doesn’t have the same rules for its carry-over bills and that’s why S 3898, which passed through the chamber last year, began back in the Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee before advancing out last week.
If the Assembly bill gets through Codes, it would still need to go through the Ways and Means Committee and Rules Committee to reach the Assembly floor.
Budget woes provide hope
The most common impetus for a state to pass gambling legislation is when it needs money. It’s what led neighboring Pennsylvania to approve a massive gaming expansion that included online gambling last year, and now New York is projected to face a $4 billion deficit.
However, Gov. Andrew Cuomo didn’t include revenue from online poker in his proposed budget for the next fiscal year. This didn’t surprise Pretlow, who doesn’t think the governor has much interest in internet gambling.
“I would have thought that with the likelihood of selling at least 10 licenses for online poker, that it would be money in the budget to help with the perceived deficit we’re going to be experiencing this year,” Pretlow said. “It wasn’t there, but there’s a 70-day amendment process so it’s not too late to put it in.”
While he doesn’t see Cuomo as a supporter of online poker, Pretlow still believes the governor would sign the bill.
“He’s never spoken out against it,” Pretlow said. “It would be hard for him to turn down revenue, but we need to get it on his desk first.”
The argument for regulation
In the past, Pretlow has scoffed at Pennsylvania or any state having an effect on what New York does. Now that Pennsylvania has legalized online gambling, he admitted that it’s good ammunition when making his argument for why New York should pass its online poker bill.
“We’re surrounded by online gaming,” Pretlow said. “I guess eventually we will come around. It’s just like with marijuana. Many states are legalizing marijuana, and two years ago the governor was totally opposed. But since we’re surrounded by Massachusetts, Vermont, New Jersey heading toward legalization and probably Pennsylvania, he’s going to rethink that. Times and situations do change.”
As for how he plans to convince his female colleagues in the Assembly to support online poker regulation, Pretlow is keeping the message basic.
“I’m telling them this is happening, this is how it’s happening, where it’s happening, and what’s happening when people are doing it,” Pretlow said. “People are already playing online poker so we’re not going to get new people by regulating it, we’re just going to change the illegal status to legal status. If sites are operating legally, the state benefits, players are protected and it puts organized crime out of business. That’s how I’ve been pushing it.”