New York’s vibrant poker scene got a shot in the arm this week, as the state Senate passed online poker legislation.
Unfortunately, this silver lining for the New York poker community comes with a bit of a dark cloud. The fact is, this is the second year in a row the New York Senate passed a bill to legalize and regulate online poker in the state. The Assembly failed to act on last year’s effort. As a result, the bill died.
The New York Senate passed S 3898 by a 54-8 margin on Tuesday. Should the Assembly pass the bill and Governor Andrew Cuomo signs it into law, it would authorize up to 11 online poker licenses to New York’s racinos, commercial casinos, and similarly licensed out-of-state gambling operations.
Proposed New York online poker regulations
The state would tax online poker operators at a rate of 15 percent on gross revenues. There is also a $10 million upfront licensing fee. That fee will be applied to future tax payments.
The New York State Gaming Commission would oversee operations and design regulations. There will be a 21 and up age limit. Participants will need to be within state limits in order to play as well.
The bill also authorizes the state to enter into agreements with other states where online poker is legal. This would be for the purpose of sharing player pools. Plus, the bill authorizes licensed online poker operators to enter into contracts with online gambling companies. This would be for the purpose of using their online gaming software.
Finally, the bill passed by the Senate includes a bad actor clause. The clause would make it difficult for any online poker operator that continued to serve US customers after the passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 to get a license in New York. This would include online gambling giant PokerStars.
Bill sponsor remains hopeful
Senator John Bonacic sponsored the bill. He is the chairman of the Senate Committee on Racing, Gaming and Wagering. Bonacic released a statement after the bill passed.
“This bill serves two main purposes in allowing New Yorkers access to regulated online poker while providing critical consumer protections and increasing revenues to the state for education and taxes via operator licenses. I will continue to work with my colleagues in the Assembly to see that this bill passes both houses before the end of session.”
Earlier this year, NY Assembly member J. Gary Pretlow expressed an interest in passing online poker legislation. In fact, he introduced an identical bill to the Assembly in January of this year. Pretlow even went as far as telling the press he sees very little opposition to online poker in the legislature. Pretlow chairs the NY Assembly Racing and Wagering Committee.
However, there is very little time left in the current legislative session. Plus, it is unclear where the rest of the Assembly currently stands on the issue.
New York loves poker
It’s highly likely New Yorkers will embrace legal and regulated online poker in greater numbers than New Jersey. New Jersey legalized and regulated online poker in 2013. However, the market has remained rather small. The population of New York is more than twice that of New Jersey. Plus, there is a large and vibrant history of live poker in the state.
Poker has been immensely popular in New York since the beginning of the underground cash game scene at the New York City Ghoulash Joints of the 1960s.
In fact, the game’s popularity has continued to this day. A modern live tournament scene regularly breaks six-figure guarantees at Native American casino properties throughout the year. This includes the Seneca Niagara Resort and Casino in Western New York and the Turning Stone Resort Casino upstate.
One of New York’s new commercial casino properties even got in on the act last month. Rivers Casino & Resort Schenectady hosted the Capital Region Classic poker tournament. Rivers just opened in February. However, the event still drew 1,095 entries, generating a $272,655 prize pool and coming close to tripling its $100,000 guarantee.