New York Online Poker Bill Re-Introduced

New York State Senator John Bonacic has reintroduced legislation that would formally authorize and regulate the offering and playing of online poker in his state.  Bonacic’s latest measure, S. 3898, is virtually identical to the Bonacic-led bill, S. 5302 (2015), that died in the state’s Assembly without a vote last year, despite passing the NY Senate by an overwhelming 53-5 vote last June.

john-bonacicBonacic reintroduced the bill now known as S. 3898 on Friday, with full publication of the text of the bill not available until today.  The bill was given its mandatory first reading on Friday and immediately sent on to the state Senate’s Committee on Racing, Gaming and Wagering, where it is expected to garner rapid approval.  No specific hearings or votes have yet been scheduled, though they’ll likely appear soon.

That Bonacic was planning to reintroduce the measure was no surprise, as Flushdraw’s Dan Katz noted last week.  Bonacic has submitted an online-poker legalization bill early in each of New York’s two-year legislative sessions since 2013.  Still, the real battle over this bill is likely to be fought not in the state’s Senate, but in the Assembly.  Last year’s push over the bill’s prior iteration was deep-sixed from within by purported poker backer Rep. Gary Pretlow, with the bill ultimately laid aside without a vote.  It remains to be seen how he and other NY assemblymen treat the measure this time around.

The bill’s specifics remain unchanged.  To summarize:

  • A $10 million licensing fee, with a maximum of ten (10) approved operators; this would provide an immediate income stream of $100 million in licensing revenue for New York if all ten licenses were issued; licenses would be good for 10 years;
  • As with the state’s new and under-development land-based casinos, the online sites and operators would be regulated by the New York State Gaming Commission and Division of Gaming;
  • 15% tax rate on gross gaming revenue (GGR);
  • Most forms of poker to be allowed, with Texas Hold’em and Omaha specifically approved;
  • Allows for interstate gaming compacts, allowing for the pooling of players with other states;
  • Declares that the offering of online gaming by unlicensed operators is a crime, subject to both taxation on money wagered as well as criminal penalties for the unlicensed operators;
  • Calls for a 180-day grace period following passage and signing of the law before its provisions would go into effect, and any new licenses could be issued.

As before, the latest bill declares itself an “act to amend the racing, pari-mutuel wagering and breeding law and the penal law, in relation to allowing certain interactive poker games.” The bill’s executive description again reads, “Allows certain interactive poker games be considered games of skill rather than games of luck; includes definitions, authorization, required safeguards and minimum standards, the scope of licensing review and state tax implications; makes corresponding penal law amendments.”

Bonacic’s office has not released a press statement regarding the reintroduction of the measure, which isn’t that surprising.  Much of the battle over the bill was fought last year, and Bonacic’s position on the topic remains unchanged.

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