NY Senate Committee Approves iPoker Bill Again

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NY Senate Committee Approves iPoker Bill Again

New York appears on track to legalize online poker, and while it may take some time, hope still exists of a positive outcome this year as long as legislators continue pushing the agenda forward. At the end of January, for instance, we learned that New York State Senator John Bonacic had his online poker bill (S.3898) pass through the State Senate Committee, which is encouraging considering that in 2017 Bonacic’s bill also eventually sailed through the Senate.

The wild card, however, is State Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow, who last year had sponsored a companion bill (A.5250) in the Assembly without much success. Furthermore, recent factors, including below forecast revenues generated by the state’s newly-opened land-based casinos, suggest a number of challenges will return in 2018. On the positive side, though, Pretlow has indicated that he continues to support online poker and will try his best to ensure legislation eventually passes.

Pretlow Stance on the Matter

Pretlow talked to Online Poker Report after the bill moved through the committee, and noted that he would most likely push for online poker in June as budgeting matters usually take up most of the start of the year. He also believes online gambling being legalized in Pennsylvania last year will positively affect the views of  New York legislators, and that state residents will come to view online poker positively after it is legalized, or at least discussed more in other states.

A controversial comment from Pretlow, however, was that women lawmakers are more opposed to gambling, and that most of the issue’s detractors are female Assembly members. According to Pretlow, he now recognizes the main opponents standing in his way, and will subsequently devote more of his time dealing with them. Pretlow further insists that online poker legalization eventually passing was a certainty and that sites operating within the law would prove to be of great benefit for both players and the state alike, as well as acting against the interests of organized crime groups.

“People are already playing online poker, so we’re not going to get new people by regulating it, we’re just going to change the illegal status to legal status. If sites are operating legally, the state benefits, players are protected, and it puts organized crime out of business. That’s how I’ve been pushing it,” explains Pretlow.

PPA Support

The Poker Players Alliance has been active in New York in the past, and has indicating its willingness to continue its strong support for online poker legislation going forward. Following Pretlow’s comment about certain members of the Assembly’s lack of understanding on the issue, the PPA subsequently posted a tweet stating:

“It looks like there are some clear targets in the NY Assembly that need education about the merits or regulated iPoker. PPA will be working with New Yorkers to ensure these lawmakers get the message loud and clear.”

Complications Ahead

If Pretlow’s reasons for a lack of past progress on the issue, and how he plans to handle the situation going forward are to be believed, then there still exists a number of different areas of concern that could complicate the process. The New York press, for example, reported that he was angry at the state’s new land-based casinos after their revenues came in significantly below forecasts, and that Pretlow has requested an investigation into their initial projections with State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. At the heart of Pretlow’s concerns was a suspicion that the casinos may have provided inflated figures in order to ensure that they would be granted building permits.

However, these are the very same venues that will be offering internet poker products in New York should legislation pass, and while one could assume that he will still be prepared to continue supporting these casinos in the event of legislation, it’s still curious that he has so little trust in them that he doubts the authenticity of their original revenue projections.

Nevertheless, online poker supporters continue to hope that Pretlow will stay true to his word and that these and other complications will eventually sort themselves out in 2018. Likewise, Bonicac has to be somewhat confident in Pretlow as he continues to sponsor the Assembly’s companion bill in the Senate. That said, while Pretlow appears to be continuing his support for online poker legalization in New York, it is his actions and not his words which will ultimately speak loudest in the year ahead.

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