Bonacic Confident New York Online Poker Bill Passes in 2017
A spokesperson for New York State Senator John Bonacic told UsPoker.com that his state is going to legalize online poker in 2017. Sen. Bonacic discussed his expectations for an online poker bill in the New York General Assembly, while predicting the legislature would approve online poker this year.
The online poker bill passed in the New York Senate on Tuesday, clearing the first hurdle to passage of the legislation. Bonacic’s bill needs to pass in the General Assembly, where a similar bill failed in December 2016, before it goes to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s desk for signature.
Gary Pretlow Close to Success
Assemblymember J. Gary Pretlow is sponsoring the bill in the New York General Assembly. Pretlow sponsored the 2016 online poker bill in the Assembly, but pulled his support at the last minute due to questions he has over implementation.
Despite that reversal, Sen. Bonacic said he is confident that Gary Pretlow will shepherd the bill to the Assembly floor for a vote. Bonacic said, “He said he’s very close to getting this on the floor. I know he’s working hard to get it done.”
Poker Taxes Go to Education Fund
One major difference between the 2017 New York online poker bill and its ill-fated 2016 counterpart is who handles the tax revenues. In the 2016 bill, all the tax revenues went to the state’s General Fund. In its current iteration, 100% of the tax revenues go to the New York State Education Fund.
Sen. Bonacic said that is a key stipulation, because it gives New York Assemblypeople political cover in voting for the bill. Bonacic said, “That’s an important carrot for the Assembly.”
New York Faces Multi-Billion Dollar Deficit
Legal poker should be lucrative for the New York state government. New Jersey is beginning to show signs of a major uptick in its online gambling revenues 3 and 1/2 years after its rollout. New York State has a popular more than twice the size of New Jersey; the size of the card playing community is an important factor in the success of online poker sites.
Bonacic says that the success of the New Jersey online gaming industry should encourage New York state lawmakers. He added, “This is a proven product. We have knowledge of the results of what our sister state is doing right next door. Jersey’s experience has been enhanced revenue to the state and at the casino as a result of online poker. All our racinos and casinos want it.”
New York’s state treasury faces massive budget shortfalls over the next three years, causing the legislature to find alternative revenue sources like gambling. The budget deficit is $4.5 billion in 2017, $6 billion in 2018, and $7.5 billion in 2019.
Lawmakers anywhere do not want to raise taxes, so the online gambling option is appealing to politicians on both sides of the aisle. While New York online poker will not close the deficit by itself, it is expected to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars a year that otherwise would come from raised taxes or fewer services.
Odds of Andrew Cuomo Signing iPoker Bill
No one is certain whether Governor Andrew Cuomo would support the bill, but John Bonacic points to Cuomo’s signature on an August 2016 daily fantasy sports bill as a sign he will approve online gambling legislation.
The senator said, “The governor’s office has not said he’s against it. He knows casinos and racinos want it. He knows we need revenue. So, I think he will sign it.”
Bonacic Expects Online Poker in an Omnibus Bill
When asked for details on his expectations for the legislative process, Bonacic was critical of Senate and Assembly leaders, who tend to procrastinate on such bill.
Speaking about the yearly legislative process, the 27-year veteran of the New York Senate (1999-present) and General Assembly (1990-1998) said, “The way Albany works, and there’s no excuse for it, is that the last three weeks of the session we’ll look at 1,200 bills. We always ask the question, ‘Why didn’t you start this stuff between January and May?’ But it’s just the way our system works.”
Given prior experience and the current glut of legislation on the agenda, Bonacic predicted the online poker bill will be rolled into a “big ugly” — an omnibus bill which includes many disparate smaller bills. Bonacic said of the process, “Everything gets loaded up on the back end, and I think they do that to leverage things against other things in order to get a big package done.”
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