New York Online Poker Bill

New York State to Again Consider Online Poker Legislation

The legalization and regulation of online poker is back on the legislative table in New York State following the introduction of new legislation by NY State Senator Joseph Addabbo. Addabbo, a Democrat representing the Ozone Park area of New York City, introduced Senate Bill 18 on Monday. The bill was referred today to its first committee outpost, the NY Senate’s Committee on Racing, Gaming and Wagering, where it receive consideration at a future date.

Addabbo’s dropping of SB 18 marks the seventh straight year that New York State’s legislature will have considered legalizing online poker, though for various reasons, all previous attempts have failed. From concerns about overbroad gambling expansion in the state and then, having to play second fiddle to daily fantasy sports (DFS) legalization efforts, the online-poker push moved on to closer calls in 2017 and 2018 where measures cleared the NY Senate but fell short due to soft leadership in the state’s Assembly.

As in these other recent years, the NY State Senate is leading the way, perhaps with a heightened sense of urgency as more of its neighboring states move into online gambling as well. The Senate is likely to pass some form of an online-poker bill, whether it’s Sen. Addabbo’s measure or a different bill. And again, it’s likely to be a more contentious battle on the topic in the Assembly, later in the year. There is also the strong possibility that online poker will again be shoved to the background, as the state is likely to consider sports-betting legislation in 2019 as well.

The summary for Addabbo’s new SB 18 is simple enough, reading: “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.”

The current version of Sen. Addabbo’s SB 18 is essentially a shell bill, though many basics of the regulatory framework are addressed. The bill calls for the issuance of up to 11 online-poker licenses, which are to be distributed between the state’s licensed casino venues and certain eligible VGT (video gaming terminal providers). The license fee is a hefty $10 million, though the license is good for ten years and the $10 million fee can be offset against taxes on revenue earned during the first five years of licensed operation.

On the consumer side, the minimum age to play online would be 21. As with other states, identity verification, geolocation, and problem-gambling provisions are also included.

As for the question of “bad actor” provisions, yes, SB 18 includes such language in its initial form. Here is the relevant passage about applicants who may be deemed unsuitable. Such applicants will be considered against the following, with the late-2006 enactment date of the US’s federal-level UIGEA (Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act) figuring into the mix. The provision calls for an examination of:

(f) Whether the applicant:

(i) has at any time, either directly, or through another person whom it owned, in whole or in significant part, or controlled:

(A) knowingly and willfully accepted or made available wagers on interactive gaming (including poker) from persons located in the United States after December thirty-first, two thousand six , unless such wagers were affirmatively authorized by law of the United States or of each state in which persons making such wagers were located; or 

(B) knowingly facilitated or otherwise provided services with respect to interactive gaming (including poker) involving persons located in the United States for a person described in clause (A) of this subparagraph and acted with knowledge of the fact that such wagers or interactive gaming involved persons located in the United States; or

(ii) has purchased or acquired, directly or indirectly, in whole or in significant part, a person described in subparagraph (i) of this paragraph or will use that person or a covered asset in connection with interactive gaming licensed pursuant to this article.

No hearings have been set as yet for SB 18.

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