New York Senate Approves Legalized Online Poker

New York has long been part of the gambling legislation discussion, but usually for all the wrong reasons. On Tuesday, however, the story changed as the New York State Senate voted 53-5 to approve a network of intrastate online poker operators.

The approved bill will now move onto the State Assembly for final voting. Should the bill be passed there as well, New York would become just the 4th state in the United States to allow for legal, state regulated online poker.

It Begins With Racetracks

The approved bill holds that, at first, 11 licenses will be given to the state’s 11 racetrack casinos. After some time, however, more licenses will be given out to approved operators. While this story, in and of itself, is good news, there is a bit of a catch that threatens to derail the whole process.

This upcoming week marks the last of the legislative season, and there are very real fears that the State Assembly will not have time to discuss and subsequently vote on the bill within the next 7-9 days.

Even though New York’s state constitution plainly states that gambling on anything other than state lotteries, state-approved casinos, and racetracks is illegal, this bill would allow online poker to exist as a game of skill rather than a game of pure chance.

As the bill is written currently, the 11 licenses will be valid for 10 years and will cost each racetrack casino operator $10 million total. In addition to the upfront costs, there will be a 15% state tax levied on all online gambling revenue. This may seem steep, but it was always made clear that if states were going to legalize online gambling games such as poker, they were going to get their fair share in the form of taxes.

The bill needs to pass the State Assembly, and this may prove tricky as that same Assembly is currently reviewing an almost identical bill from earlier. It will be interesting to see what pans out over the course of the next week or so, but optimists are banking on the bill being pushed through the Assembly and signed into law very quickly.

With the potential revenue that online poker would create for the state of New York, it is difficult to believe that there is as much opposition to this bill and others like it, but alas that opposition remains and is looking like it will remain for some time to come.

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