A bill submitted by a New York State Assemblyman would redefine poker as a game of skill and pave the way to “allowing certain interactive poker games” like hold’em and Omaha. If passed, the bill will provide the framework to make online poker in New York legal.
Referred to the Committee on Racing and Wagering on Monday by Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow, Bill 1380 outlines why poker is incorrectly categorized as a game of chance, when, like most players and fans, know it’s a game of (mostly) skill.
The bill also calls for the state’s gaming commission to “promulgate regulations to implement interactive gaming in this state and shall authorize up to eleven licenses to operate interactive gaming involving authorized participants, subject to the provisions of this article and other applicable provisions of law” within 180 days of passing.
It isn’t the first time Pretlow attempted to bring legal and regulated online poker to New Yorkers. He has tried to get online poker legalized in his state since at least 2016. He also tried again in 2017, 2018, and 2019 before dropping online poker to focus on online sports book legalization.
Why 2023 might be different?
Despite so many swings and misses, Pretlow should carry some optimism that he didn’t have in the past. Why? The difference this year is New York now has a thriving online sports book industry.
Last January, New York State’s books went live and quickly became one of the world’s largest betting markets. Since launch, people in New York have bet more than $16 billion on sports last year, raising more than $709.2 million in taxes, according to Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office.
Also, some companies that already operate there offer online poker in other states. They include Flutter, which owns PokerStars, Caesars Interactive, which owns the World Series of Poker brand, and BetMGM and BetRivers. In short, this isn’t these company’s first rodeo, and now they are established in New York, they surely have their thumb on the proverbial scales.
Those companies helped generate $200 million in licensing fees, which puts the total New York State made from online wagering at $909.2 million.
New York State is also surrounded by three states where online poker is legal: New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware, so let’s hope proximity counts for something in this case.
There’s also this: New York State is in the middle of expanding gambling. It’s state gaming commission will soon issue three casino licenses for New York City.
Gov. Hochul is also an ally to the gambling industry, and is expected to mention the large amount of taxes already made from the one-year old industry when addressing the state budget later this month.
If passed, New York State will join Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Nevada, Michigan, Connecticut, and West Virginia as the only states that legalized online poker (West Virginia and Connecticut don’t have rooms yet).
Kentucky lawmakers are trying to get an online poker and sports book law passed again this year, but will most likely see the same resistance from its conservative wing of its upper chambers yet again.