New York Online Poker Legislation Moves Forward

by Kyle Miller

New YorkOnline poker legislation in New York has progressed past a Senate Committee.

Online poker is back on the table in New York after legislation has been revived in the state. Lawmakers are currently reviewing a bill that will allow for poker to be played online in the state, with the measure having been approved within the Senate Racing, Gaming, and Wagering Committee this week.

S 3898 Moves Forward

Online poker players in New York have been hopeful for some time that their state would join in with neighbors New Jersey and Pennsylvania in offering the gaming option. S 3898 has been the closest legislation with potential to bring the activity to the state and now that it has already progressed, proponents are even more hopeful.

The bill was originally introduced by Senator John Bonacic in January 2017 but was unable to move forward. The bill was passed through the Senate last year, but the Assembly did nothing with it, so the measure died. The bill will now have to receive approval from the Senate yet again before it can be sent to the Assembly for a vote.

The bill did gain momentum in 2017 and it is believed that this year it will be able to move forward at a faster pace. For now, it seems the actual passage of the bill will mainly be determined in the Assembly. The Senate is still in approval so if the bill makes it further, the Assembly will have to approve it for any chance of the bill becoming law.

The Assembly did have their own poker bill in 2017 but it was not able to move forward much either. Assemblyman Gary Pretlow led the charge and plans on doing so again by February of this year. With the positive vote in the Senate this week, the bill will now be sent to the Finance Committee. The bill has to be passed there in order to go to a full Senate vote.

What the Bill Includes

S 3898 includes language the defines online poker as a game of skill. The classification was created in this manner due to the state constitution prohibiting any form of gambling expansion. Any expansion in the gaming industry must be done via amendment.

If the bill is passed into law, operators would be able to apply for a gaming license and offer poker games to consumers located in the state. In total, eleven licenses would be up for grabs. Operators will be required to use geolocation technology in order to determine that players are located within the borders of New York.

Operators who are given licensing will have to pay a $10 million licensing fee to get started. The money will go straight to the coffers of the state. Taxes are set at 15% on revenues earned from online gaming. In 2017, the Senate added a bad actor clause to the bill, hoping that the change would persuade the Assembly members to approve the measure. The provision does not allow those who operated before UIGEA, such as PokerStars, from taking part.

PokerStars would of course want to operate in New York if able, but with this provision, they would not be allowed to do so. PokerStars is one of a handful of poker rooms that operated after UIGEA was enforced and was shut down later on due to remaining open. If the clause were to be removed, the online poker room would be able to offer services in the region.