Online poker suffered didn't even get a vote, unlike NY sports betting

New York Online Poker Out Of Reach For Lawmakers Yet Again In 2019

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After three years in which online poker legislation seemed close in New York, the legislature made no effort to push for online poker in 2019.

Sen. Joseph Addabbo Jr. and Assemblyman Gary Pretlow each reintroduced companion online poker bills (S 18, A 4924) but didn’t even bother advancing them out of committee before the legislature adjourned for the year in June.

The lack of movement for online poker was no surprise, as Pretlow made it crystal clear entering the session that his priority would be sports betting. Of course, the legislature wasn’t even able to pass the mobile sports wagering bill.

“I thought sports betting was kind of a low-hanging fruit,” Addabbo said. “I couldn’t even get the low-hanging fruit, and you want me to get a ladder to go for online poker? Forget about it. That ladder isn’t even for sale in our state.”

Online poker failures in NY get some clarity

The Senate passed sports betting legislation in New York in the final week of the session only to have it not called to a vote in the Assembly.

Online poker fans know that scenario all too well, as the Senate passed the bill in 2016 and 2017 before having it stall in the Assembly.

It never was clear exactly what was the holdup on online poker in the Assembly. The handling of sports betting this session might have shed some light on the problem.

Pretlow asserted that mobile sports wagering had the support to pass in the Assembly but Speaker Carl Heastie declined to put it to a vote. Heastie’s hesitance on mobile sports wagering might be the same with online poker.

“We have a governor with serious concerns about expanding gaming in our state and a speaker who seems to have the same concerns,” Addabbo said. “I wouldn’t even start with a conversation about online poker.”

Gambling problems continue in NY for 2020

While their bills will be live next year in the second year of NY’s legislative session, Addabbo and Pretlow indicated that they aren’t optimistic about online poker legislation passing next year either.

The focus will once again be mobile sports wagering and expanding sports betting to racetracks and off-track betting parlors.

It’s clear there are concerns in the Assembly and executive branch regarding the impact of expanding gambling in the state in any way, including online poker.

“Once we get mobile sports betting and let it breathe a little bit, seeing we can do it and protect the consumer while addressing gaming addiction, then we can look at what we can do with online poker,” Addabbo said. “We would only venture into that area once we have proven ourselves in treating all the issues for mobile sports betting.”

Pretlow contended that online poker eventually will happen when requested by the upstate casinos.

“Online poker is always a subject that can come up,” Pretlow said. “We didn’t have much of a discussion on it this year as we basically focused on sports betting, but nothing is dead. Everything is still fluid.”

- 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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