Online Poker on Its Way to New York?

New York’s newest Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. is pre-filing Senate Bill 18, which will legalize online poker in the state.

He has long been a supporter of pro-gambling measures in the state, following in the footsteps of previous Senator John Bonacic. The legislation is similar to that which has been seen in the past in New York.

The bill would see online poker become legal, and allow online poker licenses to be issued only to  tribal and commercial casinos. There would be no licenses for other types of establishments, such as card rooms.

With much of the focus in recent times on the legalization of online sports betting, it should be noted there have been very few online poker bills in the country under consideration.

Details of Addabbo Jr.’s bill

Under this new bill, a total of 11 licenses would be up for grabs, each carrying a $10m licensing fee and a life span of five years. The proposal for taxes on the online operations would be a rate of 15% on gross revenues.

Players will need to be at least 21 years old in order to be able to use these platforms. Currently, live poker in the state has a minimum age of 18.

For certain operators, the bill contains a major roadblock known as a bad actor clause. The likes of PokerStars or other sites that were offering online poker in the unregulated market in the United States following the ban on online poker from the end of 2006 onwards will not be able to obtain one of the new licenses.

Only those entities that can legally operate video lottery gaming, as well as being a Class III gaming facility, are able to apply for a license. If this bill gets the green light, regulations will be drawn up during a six-month window.

Previous online poker bills

Politicians have tried numerous times over the years to push through an online poker bill. A bill that was part of the 2013 state budget ultimately did not get the green light.

There were also bills passed in the Senate in 2016 and 2017, as well there having been bills in the previous three budgets. However, a bill for online poker is not a popular move for those in the Assembly, where it has yet to even get the opportunity of a vote.

Will the bill be approved?

The next step for this latest bill is with the New York Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee. The committee chairman is Addabbo Jr., who is championing it. If things go well, the bill will pass through the committee and go to the Senate for a vote at some future date.

As has been seen with previous attempts, the Senate generally is in favor of opening up online poker, so there are expectations that it will pass a vote. Then it will go in front of the Assembly, where the trouble has lain in recent years for previous bills.

The Assembly is already looking closely at sports betting, so legalizing online poker at the same time could be a bridge too far all in one swoop. The belief is that this bill will struggle while the sports betting bills are still under consideration.

If sports betting were to be legalized early this year, then this would leave a lot more time to discuss the online poker issue. If not, then the topic may have to wait until 2020 before it can get a proper hearing.

Legal sports betting in New York

New York was very close to passing a sports betting bill before the end of the 2018 legislative session. However, there was a lot of debate on one or two key issues, so matters were postponed until the 2019 session.

States such as New Jersey are seeing a significant uptake in sports betting numbers and many New Yorkers cross state lines on a regular basis to get their sports betting fix there. So there clearly is a demand for it in New York state.

One of the main issues in the 2018 debates was integrity fees for major sports leagues. Now, there are people pushing for the introduction of a bill without these fees.

A bill will receive a lot of support until it reaches the Senate Finance Committee, whose new chair is Senator Liz Krueger. As the bill relates to state finances, the committee can have its say on the issue.

Krueger has been actively fighting against gambling expansion in recent years in New York. Now that she is chair of the committee, she can stop even the consideration of such a bill by excluding it from the committee’s agenda. Therefore, it will be tougher for the Senate to ultimately pass this bill.

Addabbo Jr. is participating in the effort to introduce another sports betting bill. This bill would levy an 8.5% tax on gross revenues for sports betting, in addition to a 0.2% integrity fee that would go to the State Gaming Commission every quarter. The major sports leagues would then have the opportunity to claim their share of these proceeds every year.

This bill will also come under the scrutiny of the Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee.

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