NY Online Poker Standoff Continues – Assembly Leaves Revenues Out Of Its Budget

Written By Joss Wood on April 4, 2017

[toc]Future online poker revenues have failed to make their way into the New York Assembly’s budget proposals, despite being included in the Senate’s version.

News host Andrew Whitman picked up the inside scoop on March 30, one day before the Assembly’s budget deadline.

The decision confirms the reality that as far as online poker is concerned, the Assembly and Senate have still not made it onto the same page.

The same thing occurred in 2016, when hopes were high that New York would finally legislate for state-regulated online poker.

Despite a massive 53-5 vote in favor of Sen. John Bonacic’s iPoker bill last June, the Assembly failed to put its equivalent bill to a vote.

Assembly hopes rest on online poker being a game of skill

The driver for legislation in the New York Assembly is Assemblyman Gary Pretlow, who remains committed to getting a new law on the books. But Pretlow recognizes that he still has several obstacles to overcome.

Pretlow has said that the Assembly leadership remains unconvinced that online poker is a game of skill. The absence of the physical tells available in live poker is a stumbling block to them recognising poker as a skill game.

“Here’s the problem and why people in my house are opposed to calling it a game of skill,” Pretlow told Matthew Kredell.

“When you question a poker player, one of the skill factors is defining tells in your opponent. There are no tells in online poker. You can’t read a facial expression. There is no interaction between players. To read the movement of an opponent — how they fumble chips — none of that is available in online poker,” he said.

There is virtually no support for online casino gambling in New York, which remains opposed to online gambling in general.

Politicians are not yet convinced that there is a sufficiently big difference between games of luck and online poker to treat the game differently to gambling.

Online poker lobbyists need to convince Assembly members that the skill element of poker has virtually nothing to do with physical tells. It has a lot to do with the use of logic, mathematics, and statistics.

Not yet says Pretlow, but later this year

Getting revenues in a budget proposal is a convincing argument for moving forward with the legislation needed to produce the revenues in reality.

Nevertheless, the fact that the Assembly isn’t yet ready to take that step does not mean that online poker legislation is dead for 2017.

Pretlow told Kredell that he would move forward with a standalone bill when the budget process is over.

His experiences last year have convinced him to adopt a different strategy for 2017. This time he doesn’t intend to let the bill leave the Assembly Racing, Wagering and Gaming Committee that he chairs until it has sufficient support.

Failure to legislate online gambling is not serving the electorate

The New York state constitution prohibits gambling outside of state lotteries, horse racing, and casinos. So the workaround is to secure a legal definition that online poker is not gambling.

This is the approach that Sen. Bonacic and Assemblyman Pretlow have both taken. The alternative would be a constitutional amendment which is a much harder sell, and best left to some future session.

Support for legalizing online poker will depend on the success of educating Assembly members to its real nature. This includes teaching them how to protect customers against problem gambling risks.

Pretlow has met with New Jersey regulators. As such, he has a good understanding of how online poker can be provided in a safe and secure environment. However, many of his political peers have not got the same understanding.

The anti-online poker campaign funded by billionaire Sheldon Adelson has falsely convinced many that online gambling legislation means putting a casino in every cell phone, opening the doors to terrorist money laundering, and putting children at risk.

The New Jersey experience provides proof that these allegations are untrue. But in politics, the truth is often inconvenient.

Meanwhile thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers spend their money at unlicensed and untaxed offshore gambling and poker sites. Such sites offer no statutory consumer protections.

Ignoring reality is not good for the citizens of New York. But Pretlow has his work cut out in convincing the Assembly before the end of this year’s legislative session.

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Joss Wood

Joss Wood writes for a number of publications in the online gambling sphere. With a special focus on international markets, he writes for LegalSportsReport.com, OnlinePokerReport.com, and others. He also centers on sports betting, esports betting, and the emergent regulated US online gambling industry.

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