Mixed Messages from Pretlow about New York Online Poker
The good news is that New York online poker is still alive in the state legislature. The bad news is that the Assembly has shown no sign of movement beyond the addition of nearly 50 co-sponsors, and it remains in the Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee.
While Assemblyman Clyne Vanel has brought much attention to the poker proposal in the past month, Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow continues to offer mixed messages about his bill’s chances to pass this year.
Early 2018 Actions
When the year began, the two bills from 2017 remained in play. New York State Senator John Bonacic took his S.3898 bill and passed it through the Senate Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee with a 10-1 vote. It then went to the Finance Committee, where it has remained ever since. Bonacic is confident about quick action for the bill when needed, as it passed all committees and even the full Senate in 2017, so he is likely awaiting positive signs from the other side of the legislature before moving forward yet again.
On the Assembly side, Pretlow has spoken a lot about his ability to convince fellow members of the Assembly to pass his A.5250 companion legislation, but he has yet to put much action behind those words. While he blamed the lack of momentum behind the bill on women in the legislature, he was confident in his ability to convince them of the merits of the bill.
Suddenly, Vanel stepped up in early April to provide assistance. As the chair of the Subcommittee on Internet and New Technology, Vanel saw the benefits of the poker proposal and insisted that it could pass with the proper number of co-sponsors. He began soliciting support and signed on nearly 50 co-sponsors for the bill, still short of his goal of 70 but impressive nonetheless.
Even with the addition of dozens of co-sponsors for his A.5250, Pretlow expressed frustration with the inability to get to the magic number of 76, which would have translated to enough of a majority to pass the bill through the Assembly.
Last week, Pretlow broached the subject of online poker when discussing sports betting on a local New York talk show. He spoke about the necessity of legalizing mobile sports betting to protect bettors, which will be included in a piece of legislation being drafted for a June introduction. At the very end of the interview, Pretlow admits to “issues” with his conference regarding poker, as he tries to convince them it is a game of skill instead of gambling. “I think at some point, we’re going to get it done, though,” he said about the bill.
— Poker Alliance (@ppapoker) May 19, 2018
At the same time, however, Pretlow expressed optimism to OPR about getting A.5250 to the floor of the Assembly for debate. “Get it to the floor, and I’ll debate it and get it passed,” he said.
This explains his letter to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie that requested assistance to get A.5250 to the floor of the Assembly for consideration. Pretlow was the author of the letter, but it was also signed by 51 other members of the Assembly. It read, in part:
“In response to the exclusion of legislation authorizing and regulating interactive gaming in the SFY2018-19 enacted budget, I along with a number of my colleagues request your assistance in the facilitation of the bill A.5250 to the floor for vote consideration at your earliest convenience. …
“With guaranteed instant state revenue of up to $110 million and taxes revenue that would be designated to the State Lottery Fund for education, this will mildly relieve the budget constraints that we’re currently facing.”
In his conversation with Online Poker Report, Pretlow also explained why he would not be attaching poker to his aforementioned sports betting bill. “Every bill I do should stand on its own merit,” he said. “I’m not trying to sneak something else in that people are opposed to.”
He also explained that the opposition, in his analysis, is due to people considering online poker being more of a gamble than sports betting, though he claimed he would show them otherwise.
— Dustin Gouker (@DustinGouker) May 21, 2018
There is little time to waste if online poker is to have a fighting chance before the current legislative session ends on June 20.
The good news is that the bills are written, and the Senate should have no problem passing its bill as it has done in the past. As for the Assembly, Vanel seems to be a persuasive voice on behalf of poker and has the motivation to pass the bill.
The bad news, however, is that the plea to Speaker Heastie seems to be a last resort for Pretlow, and the Assembly bill may hinge on Heastie’s decision about bringing it to the floor for debate and a vote. Pretlow may be the chair of the Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee, but his enthusiasm for poker seems to fluctuate quite often.
In addition, this is the last year that Bonacic will be able to champion poker in the New York Senate, as he recently announced his retirement. His support in the Senate has been invaluable.
If Pretlow is truly serious about A.5250 and honest about his past words of support, the next weeks will show it via a heartfelt effort to pass the bill.