New York online poker could finally be a reality, but speedy action is now paramount to make it happen.
On June 14, the New York State Senate overwhelmingly voted in favor of legalizing and regulating online poker. The state’s online poker bill (S5302), sponsored by Senator John Bonacic (R-42), will now be passed to the Assembly, which has until the end of the legislative session on Thursday, June 15 to make it law.
If the legislation is approved by the Assembly within the next 24 hours, New York will become the fourth state to legalize online poker.
This would, of course, have huge ramifications for the game in the US. With a population of almost 20 million, more than twice that of New Jersey, the Empire State could provide a significant contribution to future player pools shared between states. It could even be enough to ignite the stuttering Internet poker sector, which in turn might convince more states to follow suit.
Inaction in Assembly
But before we get too excited, we should note the relative lack of a push for online poker in the Assembly. S5302’s companion bill in that chamber is sponsored by Assemblyman Gary Pretlow, who has not been as bullish as his counterpart in the Senate. In April, said he gave online poker odds of 1,000-1 of hitting the Assembly floor.
Whether anything has changed in the last two months to shorten those odds is unclear, but the emphatic majority of the Senate vote, at 53 to 5, will at the very least make some sit up and take notice.
Poker Would Be Classified as Skill Game
The success of the measure in the Senate was praised by officials from the horseracing industry, which would be the major stakeholder in an online poker market, as well as MGM Resorts, which has been a vocal supporter of the online poker push in New York State.
“Creating a safe, regulated option for online poker players in New York would generate millions in new tax revenue that could be used for education and other critical investments,” MGM General Counsel John McManus told area news site Syracuse.com.
“We applaud the Senate for passing this sensible legislation that will help protect New Yorkers who have for years played online poker on unprotected, off-shore poker websites that today operate with no regulation, fraud controls, or age restrictions,” he added.
The legislation would create 11 possible licenses for the state’s 11 racetrack casinos to operate online poker with a software partner, should they wish to do so. Licenses would last 10 years and cost $10 million, with a 15 percent tax on gross gaming revenue.
Bonacic’s bill would reclassify poker as a game of skill, rather than one of chance in order to circumvent the constitutional prohibition against gambling outside of the state’s lotteries, horseracing, and brick-and-mortar casinos.