Sen. Addabbo grabs the baton for NY online poker
Online Poker Report

New York Online Poker Bill Faces A Difficult Path To Passage In 2019

NY online poker bill

Barely a week into the new year, New York has an online gaming bill in the hopper.

State Sen. Joseph Addabbo pre-filed legislation this week that would legalize and regulate online poker in his state. The bill is set to be formally introduced on Jan. 9.

Addabbo’s effort marks the sixth consecutive year in which a NY online poker bill has appeared in the legislature.

A look inside the New York online poker bill

The new bill resembles those past efforts.

SB 18 would legalize online poker as a game of skill, bypassing the constitutional amendment that would otherwise be required to expand gambling in the Empire State.

Of note, lawmakers used that same classification to legalize daily fantasy sports in 2016. That designation, however, is currently undergoing a legal challenge in the courts.

Licensing, taxes, and regulations

For the most part, SB 18 looks like most of the other NY online gambling proposals that have appeared over the years.

  • Players must be at least 21 years old and located within the borders of New York.
  • Licenses will cost $10 million, but that fee will go toward the first 60 months of the licensee’s tax obligation.
  • The tax rate is 15 percent of gross gaming revenue.
  • No more than 11 licenses will be issued.
  • Licenses are limited to New York commercial and tribal gaming operators.
  • There’s no limit on the number of skins that can operate under each license.

Strict bad actor language

Not everything is a carbon copy of previous efforts, though.

The bill also contains bad actor and covered asset language that would prohibit some online poker providers — and possibly their affiliates — from operating in the state. That language has made sporadic appearances in previous bills.

When determining suitability, SB 18 requires regulators to deny licensure to any person or company that:

  • “knowingly and willfully accepted or made available wagers on interactive gaming (including poker) from persons located in the  United States after December thirty-first, two thousand six,”
  • “knowingly facilitated or otherwise provided services with respect to interactive gaming (including poker) involving persons located in the United  States,”

A new online poker sheriff in town

As the point man for online poker legislation and the new chairman of the Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee, Sen. Addabbo will attempt to fill the void left by the retirement of Sen. John Bonacic.

Those will be big shoes to fill.

Bonacic has long pushed for online poker in New York, and it was he who shepherded legislation through the Senate on two occasions —  in 2016 and again in 2017.

Both legislative efforts died in the Assembly, and Addabbo’s bill could very well meet a similar fate.

  • CASINO
  • BONUS
  • DETAILS
  • PLAY

Where does the Assembly stand on online poker?

In an interview with Online Poker Report last month, NY Assemblyman Gary Pretlow made his 2019 game plan clear.

“I would give up online poker for sports betting,” he said.

Pretlow did indicate he would introduce an online poker bill in 2019, but he made no bones about it. Sports betting is his top priority, and he has no intention of combining the two issues.

His comments, coupled with sports betting being a headline machine, doesn’t exactly bode well for online poker’s chances. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

A false choice between sports betting, online poker

Turning online poker and sports betting into an “either-or” option is not only bad from a policy perspective, but it would also create some poor optics for lawmakers.

Both industries, after all, have thriving black markets in New York.

Further, online poker and sports betting would each create revenue for the state. And both would benefit the state’s existing land-based operators by creating a new, modern revenue stream and access to new customers.

As such, legalizing and regulating sports betting — particularly online sports betting — while at the same time ignoring online poker would be telling. The idea that New Yorkers should be protected from unscrupulous sports betting operators without extending those safeguards to online poker players is the definition of hypocrisy.

Prioritizing one over the other is a clear indication that this is all about one thing: Money. Protecting New Yorkers is barely more than a quaint talking point.

The two issues could easily be combined, as the stakeholders and regulatory structure are essentially identical. That said, even if they remain independent, there’s no reason they can’t exist on parallel tracks.

Incidentally, Addabbo has also pre-filed an NY sports betting bill for 2019.

Steve Ruddock
- Steve covers nearly every angle of online poker in his job as a full-time freelance poker writer. His primary focus for OPR is the developing legal and legislative picture for regulated US online poker and gambling.
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