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An online poker bill that has been sitting dormant in the New York State Senate since January sprang to life on Tuesday.
The bill, S 3898, was reported and committed out of the Finance Committee to the Rules Committee, setting up yet another mad scramble to the finish line before time runs out on the legislative clock in New York.
The NY Senate has been the genesis of — and easily passed — legislation legalizing online poker in each of the last two years. Its hard work hasn’t been rewarded. After passing the bills, the Senate frustratingly watched the measures run out of steam in the New York Assembly without so much as a vote.
With the excuse machine working overtime in the Assembly, the Senate appeared to have left the task of crafting a passable online poker bill up to its sister chamber in 2018. But once again, the lower chamber was full of sound and fury signifying nothing when it came to online poker.
Waffling and excuses continued, and online poker was all but given up on for the year.
That might explain the resurrection of the Senate bill.
The New York legislative is set to end on June 20, with some lawmakers hoping to get out of Albany even sooner.
The tight timeline led to Gov. Andrew Cuomo telling the Associated Press, “Nothing’s going to happen this year because there’s literally just a number of days left in the legislative session,” on the somewhat related and even more urgent matter of sports betting.
The Senate has demonstrated an uncanny ability to pass legislation at the end of the session, and if it decides to move on online poker there is little doubt it will once again pass the bill. There’s also little doubt that it would once again be left to wither and die on the vine in the Assembly.
That said, there is a path forward for online poker, if the Senate does what the Assembly would not: combine online poker and sports betting into a single piece of legislation.
Online poker could be used as the bargaining chip that tempers some of the stakeholder opposition that has helped stall sports betting legislation.
And New York better get serious about sports betting. Otherwise it’s going to find itself on an island, as nearby states launch legal sports betting: