The Empire State Online Poker Bill: 2020 Edition

The very frustrated lawmakers of New York will once again have the opportunity to consider online poker legislation this year. Following the completely inactive year of 2019, another bill from Sen. Joseph Addabbo is on file here in 2020. Of course, this alone is hardly a cause for much optimism, though, as this is New York state politics we’re talking about.

Lawmakers in the Empire State have filed bills to legalize online poker every year since 2014 and have absolutely nothing to show for it. Meanwhile, states such as Michigan and West Virginia have both managed to legalize and regulate online poker in 2019.

2020 New York Online Poker Bill

This New York online poker bill is exactly the same as the 2019 bill, and the terms could not be more straightforward. If it is passed, S 18 would simply remove poker from the list of prohibited games of chance in New York state.

Their state Constitution prohibits such games with very limited exceptions. However, this enabling law does not include any authorization for online gambling, and this is another sticking point.

Sen. Addabbo’s bill would authorize up to 11 licenses for New York online poker. Each would be valid for 10 years and have a price tag of $10 million apiece. The state would tax revenue at a 15% rate, just as New Jersey and Pennsylvania have done, and hold both regulated and unregulated sites accountable for those taxes.

Every platform is invited, too, as there is no “bad actor” clause among the provisions that would preclude sites like PokerStars from operating in the state.

These two lawmakers are doing their part, though. The bill did not move last year, so it is once again assigned to the Gaming, Racing and Wagering Committee that Addabbo chairs. Also, a matching bill (A 4924) from Assemblyman Gary Pretlow is also reassigned to his corresponding committee in the lower chamber.

NY Lawmakers Just Can’t Get it Done

Addabbo and Pretlow have become the two champions of gaming legislation in New York, though progress has been minimal. Pretlow’s involvement dates back to the very start, while Addabbo took over for Sen. John Bonacic following his retirement last year.

Although New York sports betting is now up and running in regulated brick and mortar sportsbooks, its approval stems from that same 2013 law. Simply put, the sponsors have just not been able to expand any of the provisions for legal and regulated gambling in the state.

The statehouse’s inability to allow online sports betting has spilled over to hurt all forms of online gambling. Online casinos and online poker included. Basically, it’s been seven years since sponsors have seen any movement on the issue.

Could This Be the Year?

New York online gamblers and poker players should remain pessimistic about their chances of seeing expanded, modern gambling legislation anytime this year. Addabbo and Pretlow have spent the last two years working to extend the sports betting provisions to include online/mobile wagering with nothing to show for their efforts.

This is completely due to a lack of support in the Assembly as well as a headstrong governor with many constitutional concerns.

This inaction leaves the majority of New York online bettors without any access to a legal and regulated platform. The closest legal sportsbook to a viable population center is more than an hour north of New York City. Plus, all the focus is now on sports betting and not poker.

This is for good reason too, as the revenue expectation for poker is minuscule in comparison to the potential windfall from online sports betting returns in the state.

Get Everyone Involved

In addition to his efforts surrounding sports betting and poker, Addabbo is also keen on opening up new casino licenses for the downstate properties in and around New York City, and for good reason. Not only is it one of the largest markets in the world, but it is also losing out to New Jersey in rake and handle.

Getting New York City involved would really force the issue as it would bring MGM into the conversation with its new property in Yonkers. This is probably the best chance for online poker to sneak through the cracked door.

However, outside of something very unexpected happening, it is wise to keep your expectations for New York online poker in 2020 to a minimum.

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