Senate Finance Committee Passes New York’s Online Poker Bill

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Senate Finance Committee Passes New York’s Online Poker Bill

On May 9th, the New York Senate Committee passed a bill that would legalize online poker within state borders, with members of the committee approving Senate Bill S3898 by a vote of 27-9. The bill’s sponsor, Senator John Bonacic (photo) , has been fighting to have a regulated online poker industry set up in the Empire State for a long time now, but when the bill was first introduced in the Senate last year under his guidance, despite sailing through with flying colors by a 53-5 vote, the Assembly didn’t even bother voting on it. In January of this year, Senate Bonacic subsequently put the ball in motion once again by re-introducing S3898, and as expected the Senate’s Committee gave it another thumbs up.

What happened in 2016?

The last couple of years have been a roller-coaster ride as far as New York’s drive towards legalized online poker is concerned. When Senator John Bonacic first introduced his bill, supporters of legal online poker world were enthusiastic and almost certain that it would advance all the way when the bill passed by a margin of 53-5. The euphoria didn’t last long, however, as excitement turned into frustration after the Assembly failed to even consider the bill. The legislative session subsequently ended without any vote, which naturally came as quite a surprise and left the supporters of the bill angry.

Following the Assembly’s failure to act on the piece of legislation, chairman of the Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee, Assemblyman Gary Pretlow released a statement in which he talked about his concerns about the possibility for cheating in online poker, and he even went on to raise questions about whether poker was actually a game of skill. Other concerns raised by Pretlow included the effectiveness of geolocation technology, as well as a general lack of support for the bill all round.

Main Talking Points of S3898

• The New York State Gaming Commission is responsible for all regulation, licensing, and vetting of gambling operators.
• A 15% tax will be levied on gross gaming revenue (GGR).
• A 10 year internet gambling license will cost $10 million to acquire.

Can it be done in 2017?

During this year’s budget discussions, Gary Pretlow opened up about the vote and stated that the Assembly was now open to talk about it as a separate issue, as long as it was not included with other legislative issues. Having seen all the ups and down throughout the years, the passage of S3898 in the Senate’s committee can be considered a big step in the process towards legalizing online poker in New York, especially as the Senate is expected to pass the bill in the near future.

However, a positive approach taken this time around by Assemblyman Pretlow will be essential if the bill is ever to gain enough support in the Assembly, and the signs do at least look somewhat better right now. Earlier this year, Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow spoke to RNN-TV reporter Andrew Whitman on the subject, and as he explained:

“When I do sign off on something, my colleagues feel that it is a good deal, and they don’t question why I made a certain decision. They know that if that decision was made, it was for good reasons. I don’t feel there will be much opposition to moving this along.”

Reasons for Optimism

Presenting the reasons for his turnabout, Pretlow stated that he had taken a field trip to New Jersey where he and his team met with the state’s attorney and were subsequently convinced as to the efficacy of their geolocating apparatus, explaining that “they proved to me that if someone was floating in their yacht on the Hudson River on the New Jersey side they could be playing poker; if they drift across to the New York side it would cut right out.”

Pretlow said that he was equally convinced that the potential for cheating was no longer a cause for concern, before then dialing back his comments about the skill versus luck debate about poker, saying that the opinion he stated at the time was more a case of political expediency.

“I take the attitude that what I have to say to get it done, I say to get it done. Some people have skill and some people play by chance. I’ve seen people win not knowing the first thing they’re doing about poker, and I’ve seen people lose who are the so-called professionals. I just want to make sure that if we allow it in New York, it’s on the up and up.”

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