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Online poker has been talked about in the New York legislature since 2012 but wasn’t actually considered seriously till 2015. New York Senator John Bonacic first sponsored a bill to legalize online poker in 2012, but it never made it to committee, the first step necessary on the way to legalization. Senator Bonacic, chairman of the Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee, said that he never intended to push the bill through at that time. He just wanted to get the ball rolling so that legislators could start discussing the pros and cons of internet gaming (iGaming). The bill was re-written by gaming committee chairman J. Gary Pretlow and introduced in the gaming committee in 2015, but it stalled and never made it out of the committee.
Fast forward to 2016 and it’s a different story. This time the bill, S.5302-B, sailed through on a 9-0 vote. The vote for the online poker bill did not take place publicly, with the entire hearing lasting only four minutes. Sen. Bonacic issued a brief statement on the legislation: “S.5302-B took a necessary step forward today with its vote out of the Racing Committee. The Bill now goes to the Finance Committee and I anticipate having ongoing discussions with my colleagues in both Houses regarding this bill as session moves forward.”
There now appears to be real momentum for online poker in New York. This comes in spite of the fact that there has been so much negative publicity concerning New York’s Attorney General declaring daily fantasy sports as illegal online gambling. So, it doesn’t seem that New York is anti-gambling online at all. They just want to make sure that everything is regulated to guarantee player protection. And, of course, to insure that New York gets its share of tax revenue.
The executive director of the Poker Players Alliance, John Pappas, offered this statement after the vote: “The PPA thanks Chairman John Bonacic and the Committee for acting quickly to pass iPoker legislation through the Senate Committee on Racing, Gaming and Wagering. If passed into law, the bill would provide New Yorkers who play poker online with a safe and regulated environment, while bringing in revenue for the state. We encourage the Finance Committee to move quickly to usher the legislation through the Senate, and also urge the Assembly to move forward with their respective legislation.” Pappas also said that “It would be a mistake for New York to wait for its brick-and-mortar casinos to go online. Moving Internet poker legislation now would establish an existing customer base of poker players for brick-and-mortar casinos when they open their doors for business.”
The Senate Finance Committee will next host the bill, but that hearing has not yet been scheduled.