The Empire State’s long-running efforts to legalise internet poker moved forward this week after new legislation passed the Senate Gaming Committee by a unanimous 11-0 vote. Although a small step, the first passage of the new bill is significant and will now be reviewed by the Senate Finance Committee before it can make its way to the Assembly and finally onto the Governor.
Senate bill S-3898 was introduced in late January by Sen. John Bonacic, who chairs the 11-person Committee, to authorise the New York State Gaming Commission to hand out online poker licenses at the cost of $10m per license. Under the bill, poker would be classified as a game of skill, which differs from the provision within the state constitution that prevents internet gambling. The state will also be able to enter interstate compacts in order to increase player pools and liquidity.
The bill would amend the Racing, Pari-Mutuel Wagering and Breeding Law to permit certain interactive poker games, specifically Texas Hold’em and Omaha Hold’em. It would change the definition of poker to constitute a game where the outcome is determined by skill rather than luck, and would regulated without this being considered gambling expansion. If it reaches the governor’s desk, there will be a 10-day period where it may be signed into law or vetoed.
A similar bill was introduced by Sen. Bonacic last year, which passed the Senate and advanced to the Assembly by a 53-5 vote, but stalled as it was not taken up by lawmakers. A factor that could help the bill this year is it will not be caught up in the whirlwind of daily fantasy sports legislation, which dominated the interactive gaming discussions last year. Another positive to the bill’s favour this year is that New York has seen three of its four new casinos open in recent months, which will satisfy those stakeholders who want to wait on internet gaming before the land-based venues open.