NY sports betting goes to front of line in legislature

Key NY Lawmaker: ‘I Would Give Up Online Poker For Sports Betting’

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New York Assemblyman Gary Pretlow told Online Poker Report that he would give up his three-year pursuit of online poker legislation if it meant New York could get sports betting done.

This isn’t an either-or scenario; Pretlow was just making a point as to where online poker stands compared to sports betting among his priorities entering 2019.

“I would give up online poker for sports betting,” Pretlow said. “If I had to make a choice, I would choose this over online poker just because the revenue stream is so much better doing this than online poker.”

A complicated history with online poker

As chair of the Assembly Racing and Wagering Committee, Pretlow has been introducing an online poker bill since 2016. One might say he is online poker’s champion in the New York Assembly, though it hasn’t always seemed that way.

The New York Senate passed online poker legislation in 2016 and 2017, with Pretlow’s Senate counterpart, the retiring John Bonacic, passing him the ball to put through the hoop.

In 2016, Pretlow was unable to convince his colleagues that online poker was a game of skill because he wasn’t yet convinced himself. The next year, he had concerns over geolocation and anti-cheating technology.

By the end of 2017, Pretlow seemed ready to fully commit to pushing for online poker. This year, with the help of Assemblyman Clyde Vanel, he made a major push to get 51 Assembly members (47 Democrats, 4 Republicans) signed on as co-sponsors of the bill.

At the end of the session in June, in a year that the Senate didn’t even pass its online poker bill, Pretlow claimed that online poker was just eight votes from passing in the Assembly.

The money is on sports betting

Apparently, all it would have taken to get online poker passed was a better showing in neighboring New Jersey, where sports betting revenue has grown quickly.

“Online poker, I think the revenue for the state is projected at $20-25 million, while this is $150 million minimum,” Pretlow said. “I have a much better argument for sports betting.”

Sports betting can’t carry online poker

Early this year, there was consideration to joining online poker with the sports betting bill, with the US Supreme Court decision on sports betting giving both the momentum to get through. Now, the thought is that sports betting is too important to foul up with online poker.

“I’m still going to introduce an online poker bill, but I have to prioritize things and do one at a time,” Pretlow said. “I’m not going to tie them together.”

Pretlow contended that sports betting “probably could help” online poker gain some momentum. It couldn’t hurt. But it doesn’t look like a piggyback situation next year. The New York legislature is prioritizing sports betting, and online poker won’t be along for the ride.

- 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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