Bonacic John

New York State Online Poker Bill Introduced

Another populous American state will soon be considering online-poker regulation, thanks to a bill dropped by State Senator John Bonacic on Friday.

Bonacic’s new proposal, already tagged as S6913-2013 (the “2013” referring to the current legislative session, which wraps around the calendar-year turnover), would create as many as ten New York-licensed online poker sites if enacted and fully realized.  Passing a new online-poker bill authorizing state-licensed sites and networks in New York would also require a rewrite of existing gambling laws regarding elements of chance, as New York state code is stricter in that area than most other states — a legal fact that came into play into the celebrated “poker as a skill game” case involving New Yorker Lawrence DiCristina.

bonacic-john-ny-senateA declaration that poker is indeed a game of skill is also a part of the bill as proposed by Bonacic (right), a Republican from New York’s 42nd Senate District, an area in the southeastern Catskills a couple of hours northwest of metro New York City.  The need to reclassify both poker and existing New York gambling statutes is evidenced by the bill’s official justification, created as part of the bill’s origination process:

Presently, numerous New York residents are participating in illegal, unregulated and unsafe gaming operations which offer games of chance over the Internet. This bill will allow the state to license operators that meet the high standards set by the state and offer limited games of poker which require a high level of skill. This bill will require such operators to take steps to protect consumers, combat compulsive gaming, and prevent minors from accessing online gaming sites.

In addition, this legislation would create additional revenue for the State of New York by clearly defining certain variants of poker, “Omaha Hold’ em” and Texas “Hold’ em,” as games of skill and thus allowing licensed interactive gaming operators to offer these games to the public. Thus, not only this will help New York regulate an industry that is present[ly] operating without oversight in New York State, but also generate additional revenue from taxes and licenses fees associated with a licensed online poker system in New York State.

The new bill has already been referred to the state’s Senate Standing Committee on Racing, Gaming and Wagering for initial debate.  Among the key features of the bill:

  • The aforementioned creation of up to ten licenses, each with an initial license fee of $10 million for an initial 10-year period.  The influx of $100 million in upfront license fees appears designed to provide an immediate revenue influx for the state if the measure is approved;
  • Would require the state’s Gaming Commission to implement standards designed to block the three specters most often cited by anti-gambling fearmongers — underage gambling, fraud, and gambling addiction;
  • Calls for a 15% tax rate on gross gaming revenue, to be paid to the state;
  • Would update New York State penal code with regards to games of chance as noted above, and make a specific exemption for the poker variants of Texas Hold’em and Omaha;
  • Would implement a “bad actor” cutoff date of December 31, 2006 (the first end of year, post-UIGEA).  Sites and services still allowing online poker services to New York players after that date would be deemed ineligible for gaming commission approval.  The inclusion of the bad-actor provision implies that the Bonacic bill may be backed by one or more of the existing New York tribal casinos, many of which already offer brick-and-mortar poker;
  • Would call for implementation of the new bill, including regulations, within 180 days of passage;
  • Would allow for multistate compacts and player pooling with other states that have also authorized online poker;
  • Would allow for both cash-game and tournament play.

FlushDraw will update the progress of this bill as developments warrant.

 

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