When the game of poker boomed in the early 2000’s, it did so in New York as much as anywhere. Not only did New Yorkers play online in fairly large numbers, they showed up at local tournaments in even bigger ones.
New York and Borgata
Poker’s growth had its ups and downs across the country since 2003, when Chris Moneymaker won the Word Series of Poker Main Event. But the Borgata Resort Casino and Spa in Atlantic City, New Jersey, has only seen the ups.
In fact, Borgata continues to see numbers grow for World Poker Tour events, and its own tournament series, year in year out. It opened in 2003 with a poker room looking to compete in the local cash game scene. Since then, it has only grown. It has dominated that scene ever since.
There’s no denying a lot of those Borgata numbers come straight out of New York. In fact, New York City, the country’s biggest, is just a two-hour drive away.
Of course, the city has long been home to a large underground poker scene. It was first popularized by the 1998 film Rounders, then continued to grow as poker boomed. However, those numbers don’t show up on any balance sheets, and can be hard to quantify. Plus, there’s little doubt they’ve dipped over the years. The police stopped protecting the card rooms. As a result, a criminal element became an increasing factor.
Where they haven’t dipped is at Native American casino across the state. Turning Stone Casino Resort quickly became the home for poker in Central New York when the boom hit there. In fact, since one only needs to be 18 to play at Turning Stone, so it remains a proving ground for young and up and coming poker players from across New York and all over the East Coast.
Turning Stone has run successful tournament series like the Empire State Hold’em Championships and East Coast Poker Championships for years.
Plus, they are not alone. Seneca Niagara Casino Resort in Western New York is still regularly smashing six-figure guarantees with its seasonal events, including the Western New York Poker Challenge, Summer Slam, and the Fall Poker Classic.
Three of four planned new commercial casinos open their doors in New York. They all did so with poker rooms that have quickly become the heart of the properties.
In fact, Rivers Casino & Resort Schenectady got in on the tournament action in May, hosting the inaugural Capital Region Classic event. The tournament obliterated its $100,000 guarantee, drawing enough entries to create a $272,655 prize pool.
Coming soon: Legal and regulated online poker
New Yorkers have been hearing about the possibility of legal and regulated online poker coming to the state every year since 2013. Most of the bills have simply died on the vine.
The Senate passed online poker legislation for the second year in a row in 2017. However, the legislative session ended before any real further action was taken by the Assembly once again. Only this time, they left hope on the table.
State lawmakers have adopted a new carry-over policy for bills in a legislative term. That means online poker legislation will pick up where it left off in New York next year. The bill passed by the Senate automatically carries over to the second year of the legislative session. In effect, that means that in 2018, New York is already closer to passing online poker legislation than ever before.
Legal and regulated online poker will do all kinds of things for the local poker scene. It’s conceivable that the rooms already running the big tournaments will allow players to satellite in online. If that happens, entry numbers will surely grow exponentially. Plus, the opportunity for further cross-promotions allowing operators to grow online and off appears almost endless.
Poker is already enjoying a renaissance in New York. Legalized online poker in 2018 may even create a resurgence. No matter how you label it or look at it, poker is alive and well in the Empire State and its future looks bright.