Hurdles still remain for NY online poker in 2018

Dozens Of Lawmakers Line Up Behind NY Online Poker Bill, Which Could Be Combined With Sports Betting

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As official support for the online poker bill in the New York Assembly increases rapidly, the legislation’s author remains tepid on its prospects for this year in the face of opposition from Assembly leadership.

As forecast by Online Poker Report last week, A 5250 is seeing a large jump in co-sponsors, from 13 to 44 in recent days. However, Assemblyman Gary Pretlow doesn’t share colleague Clyde Vanel‘s optimism that this push will be enough for the Assembly finally to move on an online poker bill that has been passed on the Senate side the last two years.

“It’s growing, but not fast enough,” said Pretlow, who chairs the Assembly Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee. “We will get to 60, but my goal is 76. At 76, that means there’s a majority of Democrats in favor.”

Pretlow indicated that the recent movement doesn’t make him any more optimistic than in January, when he expressed frustration over the stubbornness of some Assembly members on this issue.

“I feel about the same,” Pretlow said. “I’m confident it gets done eventually, I’d just like to get it done sooner rather than later.”

Assembly leadership not on board

At the end of this session in June, just as it was at the end of last session, the key to online poker legislation moving in the Assembly will be convincing Speaker Carl Heastie that it is needed. Pretlow is ready to admit that Heastie is a hard sell.

“He’s not in favor of gambling,” Pretlow said. “It’s obvious there are a lot of people in the Assembly not in favor of gambling of any sort. I try to explain to them that this is an expansion of existing gambling, but it’s hard to do when minds are closed.”

With 150 lawmakers in the Assembly, getting 76 co-sponsors would provide pressure inside the legislature for Heastie to push the bill, while outside pressure from his constituents could also do the trick. Heastie’s district covers portions of the Bronx.

“There’s still a whole lot of time available to do some of the things we need to do, when there’s the will to do them,” Pretlow said. “Getting leadership to see the need for these things is what my problem always has been.”

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Combining with sports betting bill a possibility

Pretlow noted that his focus is divided between sports betting and online poker, and he is considering putting the two together when he introduces a sports betting bill in May.

The sports betting bill has more urgency to pass this year, with the US Supreme Court expected to rule on federal sports betting ban by the end of June, which could provide a needed boost for online poker if the two are attached. There’s also documented support for sports betting in the state, as voters approved a constitutional amendment authorizing sports wagering at commercial casinos in 2013.

“Combining the bills is a last resort,” Pretlow said. “I don’t want to combine them, but if I have to then I will. The sports betting bill has a better chance to pass, and maybe it can carry online poker with it.”

Support from a new face

Assemblyman Vanel, who took office a little over a year ago and chairs the recently added Subcommittee on Internet and New Technology, helped Pretlow generate Democratic support for adding online poker to the Assembly’s budget plans. While those efforts didn’t get online poker in the state budget, they are what’s leading to the increase in co-sponsors on the bill.

Vanel asserted that he will continue whipping up support for the bill in the final months of this session, and Pretlow stated that he appreciates the support.

“He’s great,” Pretlow said of Vanel. “I’m trying to get him on my committee. He gets it, but a lot of people don’t get it. Everybody has an Uncle Louie who lost his paycheck.”

- 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, and Matt also has written on a variety of topics for Playboy Magazine, Men's Journal, Los Angeles magazine, LA Weekly and
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