Help in New York Assembly Could Push Online Poker

Online poker supporters have been on a years-long roller coaster ride with legislation in New York. The state has been a favorite to legalize and regulate online poker for several years, but each year, the Assembly drops the ball and fails to follow through after the Senate passes the bills.

This year is different on the positive and negative sides of the issue. There are numerous complications with new casinos in New York meeting expectations, and the same Assemblyman who claims he can champion online poker each year is in charge once again. However, on the positive side, there is more help in 2018 by way of State Assemblyman Clyde Vanel. He could save the day.

Online Poker Status Before Vanel

New York State Senator John Bonacic has been pushing online poker on his side of the legislature for several years. Full Senate votes passed his online poker bill in 2016 and 2017 by significant margins. And Bonacic is ready to make another push this year. He already moved S.3898 through the Senate Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee by a 10-1 vote earlier in 2018, and he will likely have no problem doing the same in the Finance Committee and on to the Senate floor.

The problem has continuously been State Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow on the other side of the legislature. He has claimed support of his own A.5250 and boasted of his ability to find enough votes in the Assembly to pass it, but he has failed. And when Bonacic’s bill arrived in the Assembly last year with momentum and overwhelming Senate support, Pretlow failed to move it at all.

This year, another obstacle stands in the way of online poker legislation and Pretlow’s support. While he proclaims he will be able to pass the bill, his past actions say otherwise. In addition, he has been an outspoken critic of new land-based casinos like del Lago, which not only showed revenue well below its own predictions but has even asked for a bailout in the form of reduced taxes to save the property.

New Status with Vanel

Enter Assemblyman Vanel with new energy and optimism. Online Poker Report revealed that the newer member of the legislature, who just took his seat in late 2016, is prepared to sign dozens of sponsors to A.5250 in the near future. As the chair of the new Subcommittee on Internet and New Technology, he feels strongly about the topic of online poker.

He told OPR, “I want New York to be in a position where we’re leading the country in internet and new technology. This is an area where we can improve. We have poker in New York, but we’re not allowing it online. Folks can’t articulate why.”

Recently, Vanel led an effort to put online poker in the proposed Assembly budget bill this year and was able to obtain signatures from more than 60 lawmakers in support of the move. While it did not work, it demonstrated that the support for online poker regulation is available. He now wants to recruit those same members of the legislature to co-sponsor A.5250, and he anticipates increasing the list of co-sponsors from its current number of 13 to 60 or 70 in the next few weeks.

“With enough co-sponsors,” Vanel said, “I like to get it out of committee and onto the floor. I think we have a good shot of getting it through this year.”

Vanel recognizes the hypocrisy of an unregulated online poker market, especially when there are so many other types of gambling in the state that are legal and regulated. Even horse race betting and lottery tickets are not available online. And though he knows he won’t likely change the minds of those opposed to all types of gambling, he hopes to be able to reason with the rest and turn ambivalence or apathy into support for A.5250. The first move, however, is to put supporters on the bill as co-sponsors to demonstrate the level of advocacy that already exists.

Meanwhile, A.5250 sits in the Codes Committee and must pass through several committees before heading to the Assembly. That gives Vanel time to collect an impressive number of co-sponsors and push for a big Assembly vote in June.

Vanel also knows that legislators need to know that there is a great deal of public support for regulated online poker. The Poker Players Alliance is urging poker players and fans to send messages to New York legislators to express support for A.5250 and the need to do it this year.

 

 

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