New York Lawmakers Step Up for Online Poker

As of this month, New York online poker supporters have a new champion for their cause. While State Senator John Bonacic has shown his unwavering dedication to passing his bill on the Senate side – passing the entire Senate for two consecutive years is a good sign of dedication – the same cannot be said for the sponsor of the Assembly bill. But that’s where Assemblyman Clyde Vanel came in.

Not only did Vanel swoop in and set some serious goals for the Assembly poker bill, he actually took action and showed tremendous progress in just a few weeks.

There may be hope for New York this year yet.

Very Productive Weeks for Vanel

As the Internet and New Technology Subcommittee Chairman, Assemblyman Vanel has a sincere interest in passing sensible poker legislation to legalize and regulate the games in his state. He is well aware that many customers are currently playing in an unregulated environment, and he is also conscious of the ways in which online poker could help boost land-based casino business.

When it became clear earlier in April that Vanel was taking the baton and running with it, it gave hope to poker fans who may have given up on New York passing the bill.

As mentioned, the Senate side had been and continues to be covered by Bonacic, who has showed for two years that he has the votes to pass – by significant margins – poker. And this year, his S.3898 legislation passed through the first committee very early in the year, but he stopped short of taking it further yet. His successes in past years had been undermined by an apparent lack of effort or sincerity on the part of Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow, the sponsor of the companion bill.

Pretlow already made excuses for his past failures but assured poker supporters that he would be able to get the bill taken care of in 2018. However, these words rang hollow with many who have heard those promises for several years.

When Vanel stepped in this month, he made an excellent point. If there were 60 or so members of the Assembly willing to sign on to support inserting poker into the annual budget bill, wouldn’t those same members want to co-sponsor the bill? He believed so and vowed to work toward garnering 60 to 70 co-sponsors for A.5250.

As of April 20, Vanel added 45 new co-sponsors to the bill. While Pretlow remains listed as the primary sponsor, Vanel’s influence has shown more progress for the legislation than it has seen in several years.

Negativity in the Way

Even with the new sponsors and more to be added in the coming weeks, Pretlow’s comments to OPR didn’t reflect that progress or any optimism at all about the immediate future of the bill.

“It’s growing,” Pretlow said of the number of co-sponsors, “but not fast enough. We will get to 60, but my goal is 76. At 76, that means there’s a majority of Democrats in favor.”

He did go on to say that he’s confident the bill will pass “eventually.” But Pretlow bemoaned the lack of support from Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. “He’s not in favor of gambling.”

Those words are a sharp contrast to Vanel’s positive comments from earlier in the month: “I think we have a good shot of getting it through this year.”

Combination Bill?

OPR also mentioned that there is a possibility that online poker gets attached to a pending sports betting bill. Should the United States Supreme Court rule in favor of New Jersey in the pending sports betting case, all states will be able to legalize and regulate that industry within their own borders. And with many more legislators familiar with sports betting – and supportive of it – that bill has a much better chance to make it through the entire legislator than an isolated bill.

Why not combine the two issues on one gambling expansion bill?

Pretlow doesn’t seem very enthusiastic about the idea. He said, “Combining the bills is a last resort. I don’t want to combine them, but if I have to then I will.”

Perhaps it is better to leave the bill in Vanel’s hands. Pretlow can continue to be the face of the bills, but Vanel is the one who seems to have the drive and determination to actually pass them.


About Jennifer Newell

Jennifer began writing about poker while working at the World Poker Tour in the mid-2000s. Since then, her freelance writing career has taken her from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and back to her hometown of St. Louis, where she now lives with her two dogs. She continues to follow the poker world as she also launches a new subscription box company and finishes her first novel. Jennifer has written for numerous publications including and has followed the US poker and gaming market closely for the last 15 years. Follow Jen on Twitter

Disclaimer: The information on this site is my interpretation of the laws as made available online. It is in no way meant to serve as legal advice or instruction. We recommend that you seek legal advice from a licensed attorney for further or official guidance.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Articles