New York Online Poker Bill

New York Online Poker Bill Clears First 2018 Vote

A New York State Senate Committee has re-approved an online poker regulatory bill for the third time in as many years, opening up another legislative battle over online poker’s possible future in the Empire State. Tuesday’s passage of Senate Bill 3898 from the NY Senate’s Committee on Racing, Gaming and Wagering echoed the wide margins the same bill enjoyed in 2017, when it marched through the state’s Senate but failed to be called for a vote in the Assembly.

New York StampS3898’s passage came by a 10-1 margin, actually down a tick from 2017’s unanimous committee approval. This iteration’s single nay vote came from State Sen. James Sanders, Jr., a Democrat who represents part of the New York City borough of Queens. Primary bill sponsor John Bonacic was among those voting in favor in Tuesday’s committee vote.

The reasons for Sen. Sanders’ switch from a yea to a nay went unreported, though it matters not to S3898’s future track. The bill was immediately referred to the NY Senate’s Committee on Finance, a mandatory stop on the way to a full Senate vote. Last year’s iteration of S3898 spent three months in the Finance committee before clearing it on a 28-9 vote. It then moved on to the Senate floor, where it passed by a 53-9 count.

The 2018 path for S3898 appears every bit as rosy, but as we’ve noted early, it’s the parallel Assembly path that poses the largest roadblock in New York. In each of the past two years, NY Assemblyman Gary Pretlow has voiced long support for an online-poker bill, but has found reasons to never bring up what appears to be a popular bipartisan measure for any sort of Assembly vote.

Pretlow’s dragged up several straw men to assume blame for the demise of his Assembly online-poker bill, and he’s already laying out the case for more straw men to take the blame in 2018. Or, in this case, women. Pretlow, who was recently interviewed by Matthew Kredell over at OPR, blamed women for last year’s technical defeat of his bill, A5250.

“It seems women are opposed to gambling or gaming, and it got a little heated,” Pretlow told OPR. “There’s opposition to the legislation by a lot of female members of the Assembly, and the Speaker decided we should wait to get it straightened out. But now I know which ones to deal with and that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to redouble my efforts, as the expression goes.”

One might call that a too-broad generalization by Pretlow, pun nauseatingly and specifically intended. While there has always been a gender-based skew inherent in the support for any form of gambling, Pretlow’s comment is just plain stupid, and it calls into question his motivations. Market research has generally shown that women are 10-15% less likely on average, to favor or participate in gambling activities, and that likely has its basis in societal and sociological roles. But saying that “women are opposed to gambling” is dumbly erroneous on its face.

Last year, Bonacic’s Senate version passed its full Senate vote with roughly the same percentages of female Senators as male Senators casting “yea” votes. Given that Pretlow’s bill has never been called for a vote, one can’t say for sure what the gender split might be. Yet Pretlow’s straw-woman disclaimers beg for a dose of reality: For the 2017-2018 session, only 34 of the Assembly’s 150 seats are held by women. That’s less than 23%, which is itself below the national average.

Whatever the reasons might be for Pretlow’s online-poker bills failing in recent years, “women are opposed to gambling” isn’t the primary issue. It might be a contributing factor amid concerns over problem gambling and a potential societal impact — concerns that can be addressed by a bill sponsor who’s doing his job.

The sadder news, though, is that New York’s online-poker future might hinge upon Pretlow’s negotiating skills. And this week’s quote, just like previous years’ failures, give strength to the notion that he’s just not up to the task.

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