New York online sports betting is off to a strong start, with a fifth operator arriving Jan 17. Could online poker be next?

With Mobile Sports Betting Underway, Chances Are Improving For New York Online Poker

Online poker may be in New York‘s future, or at least on the table. The good news comes via PlayNY, which is part of the same network as Online Poker Report.

PlayNY interviewed New York State Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow, D-Mt. Vernon. Asked about online poker, he said:

“That’s in the mix. It’s not going to come right now. Sen. [Joe] Addabbo and I are talking about it. We’re looking more toward the [downstate] casino expansion first. And behind that would come online poker, because it’s associated with the casinos and it’s all part of the package that we’re working on.”

Lawmakers may be able to expedite the downstate retail casino expansion legislation and get the work done this year. That’s the best-case scenario, according to Pretlow, who serves as chairman of the Assembly’s Racing and Wagering Committee. Addabbo, D-Howard Beach, leads the Senate’s Standing Committee on Racing, Gaming and Wagering.

Both told PlayNY an online poker bill wouldn’t happen until after the retail casino expansion matter is settled.

Pretlow told PlayNY:

“[Online poker] definitely has to be legislation. Everything we do has to be legislation. And then we have to deal with the constitution that gambling in New York is illegal, as we say it is. So everything is illegal unless we say it is legal, and they have not said that online poker is legal yet.”

New York launched online sportsbooks

As of Saturday, the newest additions to the New York gambling market took their first bets. Four of nine New York online sportsbooks launched to what OPR sister site Legal Sports Report describes as great interest.

LSR quoted geolocation provider GeoComply’s Lindsay Slader, Managing Director – Gaming, who said opening weekend generated a “historically unprecedented” 17.2 million pings for:

One more brand, BetMGM Sportsbook, will be launching on Monday.

Addabbo sent OPR a statement on Jan. 6 exuding similar excitement about Saturday’s launch of online sportsbooks licensed to operate in the state. He called the launch “great news for New York in terms of revenue, new funding for education, addiction programs and youth sports, as well as new jobs.”

The same video caused minor alarm as it appeared to show some online sports bets originating in Canada. This was simply a video artifact, however. The original video featured an animation showing the pins dropping into place. With the frames sped up for social media, pins caught mid-drop flashed on-screen somewhat north of their actual position.

Online poker also has a bad history in New York

Unfortunately, public perception of online poker in the US hasn’t softened much since Black Friday. New Yorkers are no exception.

“I got a lot of opposition. Anything gaming there’s opposition to it,” Pretlow said to PlayNY. “I have a lot of colleagues that have had really bad experiences with problem gamblers.”

Still, online poker is on the agenda, along with the discussions about accelerating licensing, he said.

Pretlow added:

“Whether it stays on the table I don’t know. But it’s on the table now and part of the conversation.”

Online casino may be on the NY agenda too

Pretlow told PlayNY that online casino gambling “similar to what New Jersey has” may be on the table this year, along with downstate retail casino expansion.

At least one online sportsbook operator is already planning ahead for potential iGaming in New York. Back on Nov. 3, Bill Hornbuckle, president and CEO of MGM Resorts International, told investors about his hopes for a New York online casino market. BetMGM, which is a joint venture between Hornbuckle’s company and Entain, is the national leader in the online casino vertical.

Hornbuckle said:

“For us, it’s an omnichannel play. It’s a brand play. And we’re going to have a huge presence there. And hopefully someday, we get to online, iCasino. But that’s something for well down the road.”

BetMGM Poker is already live in Michigan, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The Wolverine State expected to launch multi-state online poker last year, but leaders of the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) noted that any such offering requires authorization from the participating states.

Down the road after the downstate retail casino matters are settled and online poker is legal in New York, perhaps the conversation could steer toward multi-state poker legislation.

- Heather Fletcher is the lead writer with OnlinePokerReport. She's a career journalist, with bylines in The New York Times, Adweek and other publications. Reach her at [email protected]
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