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Another Try for Online Poker in New York

Feb 7, 2017

Another online poker bill has emerged in New York after Assemblyman Gary Pretlow submitted A 5250 to the state’s legislature on Monday. This comes on the heels of New York Senator John Bonacic's legislative piece which was introduced last month.

The two proposed legislations aim to change the legal definition of certain poker games as ones whose outcome depends predominantly on skill rather than on luck. And if any of the two bills is signed into law, it will allow for the provision of online poker offering within the state’s borders.

Under Senator Bonacic’s bill, Texas Hold’em and Omaha games should be deemed legal as they involve decision-making and strategy, which, in turn, can be defined as important skills. The legislator has based the text of his legislation on multiple poker-related studies.

A change in the legal definition is necessary for the potential legalization of Internet versions of the game in the state. New York lawmakers have always been somewhat unfavorably disposed towards any proposal that involves gambling expansion. However, if poker is considered a game of skill, the state prohibition on expansion can be avoided.

Other than providing new legal definitions of poker, the two bills offer provisions for the regulation of online poker, once and if this type of offering is legalized. Taxation is also included as an important point in the legislative pieces. Under the bills, online gambling operators conducting Internet gambling operations in the state will have to pay a 15% tax on their annual gross gaming revenue.

A bill sponsored by Senator Bonacic and co-sponsored by Assemblyman Pretlow made a historic progress in the Legislature last year. It passed in the Senate vote with overwhelming support, but lost steam in the Assembly due to Pretlow's waning support of the bill which didn't even get to a vote.

Assemblyman Pretlow justified his decision to withdraw his support with the fact that there were still “entities” in the Legislature’s lower house who had issues with the legalization of online poker. He has also told the media that he had trouble interpreting poker as a game of skill. Hopefully this time Pretlow is ready to stay the course and see this bill through.

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