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Lawmakers in New York once again have the opportunity to consider online poker legislation this year. Following a complete lack of progress through 2019, a relevant bill from Sen. Joseph Addabbo is back on file for 2020.
That alone is hardly a cause for optimism, though. Lawmakers in the Empire State have filed bills to legalize online poker every year since 2014 without anything to show for it.
Michigan and West Virginia, meanwhile, both managed to legalize online poker in 2019.
The NY online poker bill remains unchanged from its introduction in 2019, and the terms are fairly straightforward.
If passed, S 18 would essentially remove poker from the list of prohibited games of chance in New York. The state Constitution prohibits such games with limited exceptions, including the regulated commercial casino industry that spawned in 2013. The enabling law does not, however, include any authorization for online gambling.
Addabbo’s bill would authorize up to 11 licenses for NY online poker, each valid for 10 years at a cost of $10 million apiece. The state would tax revenue at a rate of 15%, which falls in line with New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and it holds both regulated and unregulated sites accountable for those taxes.
There is no express “bad actor” clause among the suitability provisions that would preclude sites like PokerStars from operating in the state.
The bill did not move last year, so it is once again assigned to the Gaming, Racing and Wagering Committee that Addabbo chairs. A matching bill (A 4924) from Assemblyman Gary Pretlow is also reassigned to his corresponding committee in the lower chamber.
Addabbo and Pretlow have become the two champions of gaming legislation in New York, though progress has been utterly elusive. Pretlow’s involvement dates back to the beginning, while Addabbo took the reins from retired Sen. John Bonacic last year.
Although NY sports betting is now up and running in a regulated environment, its approval stems from that same 2013 law. And the sponsors have, in the years since, repeatedly failed to expand the provisions for gaming in the state.
The same inaction that has scuttled online sports betting has pumped the brakes on other forms of gambling — including online poker. None of the sponsors’ efforts surrounding online gambling, sports betting, or casino expansion have come to fruition in the past seven years.
New Yorkers are rightly pessimistic about their chances of expanded, modern gambling legislation this year.
Addabbo and Pretlow have spent the last two years working to extend the sports betting provisions to include online/mobile wagering with nothing to show for their efforts. A lack of support in the Assembly and a headstrong governor espousing constitutional concerns have left the majority of NY bettors without easy access to a regulated outlet.
The nearest legal sportsbook to a population center is more than an hour north of New York City.
What perhaps is the most concerning for the prospects of poker is that the sponsors’ focus has fully shifted to sports — and rightly so. The revenue expectation for poker pales in comparison to the potential haul from online sports betting in the state.
In addition to his efforts surrounding sports betting, Addabbo is also keen on opening up new casino licenses for the downstate properties in and around NYC. That would, for one thing, bring MGM into the conversation with its new property in Yonkers. And it might represent the best chance for poker to sneak through.
Barring something unexpected, though, it’d be wise to temper your expectations for NY online poker in 2020.
The bill isn’t terribly long; give it a read.New York SB 18a (2020)