New York Online Poker Put to Sleep Again as Session Ends
Another legislative session ends in New York without passing a bill to legalize online poker. It’s a variation on the same story told every year, and though the processes have changed, the end result is the same.
As it happened, many bills were left untouched when the session ended on Wednesday, June 20. Even the sports betting proposals, which seemed to have significant support on both sides of the legislature, was left in a pile of unfinished business when lawmakers closed the doors on the first half of 2018.
Online poker fans, players, and supporters are left to wonder, yet again, if the game will really be able to expand in the United States. Not only are state legislatures across the country shutting down for the summer without legalizing poker, Pennsylvania has seen no takers in the first round of online gambling applications when online casino games and poker were offered together at a discounted rate.
New York was a favorite to pass poker legislation in 2018. If a state with such support in the Senate and newfound reinforcement in the Assembly could not get the job done, it leaves many in the poker industry wondering what the future holds.
That’s a Wrap
The day turned into night, and New York’s 2018 legislative session ended for the Assembly after 11pm on June 20, with the Senate closing its doors after midnight.
The New York Times reported that sports betting was just one of many issues left unresolved, along with gun-control proposals, bail reform, and education bills.
Chaos in the legislature, especially the Senate, had been evident for quite some time, and it only got worse as the session dragged to a close. Governor Andrew Cuomo had been so frustrated that he didn’t even show up for the last day. The Senate was locked in a stalemate due to the long-term absence of Republican Senator Tom Croci, and the even 31-31 party-line split assured that little was going to be accomplished in the form of substantive legislation. Cuomo, who has already been focused on the governor’s race in November, claimed, “The items we couldn’t get resolved, we still can’t get resolved because there are philosophical differences.” And he said it would be left to the November elections to decide if anything would change going forward.
Poker wasn’t singled out, nor was sports betting. The entire legislature seemed incapable of finding common ground on much of anything.
Widespread sports betting WON'T be coming to New York in 2018.
The NY state legislature ended its session on Wed. night without passing a new sports betting bill.
Barring a special session, it will reconvene again in Jan. 2019.
— Ben Fawkes (@BFawkes22) June 21, 2018
Online Poker on a Roller Coaster
There was much frustration regarding the poker bills in New York this year.
Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow had been accumulating years of excuses as to why his bill was unable to move forward. That brought fellow Assemblyman Clyde Vanel on board to do the tough work of obtaining co-sponsors for the bill, and he did garner nearly 50 of them.
Even so, there was absolutely no progress for A.5250 in 2018, as it never even passed through the Codes Committee, where it has been resting since January 3.
State Senator John Bonacic appeared the most frustrated. After pushing his S.3898 through the full Senate last year with an impressive passing vote – and passing a bill the previous year as well – he was met with excuses from Pretlow about movement on the Assembly side. This year, Bonacic’s bill started in the Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee and passed through by a 9-to-1 vote. As he waited for action from Pretlow again, he finally moved S.3898 through the Finance Committee on June 5 by a 28-to-5 vote. From there, it went to the Rules Committee.
This is Bonacic’s last year in the New York Senate, as he has chosen to retire in 2018. This is likely one of the bills he would like to pass before the end of his time in the legislature, as he has devoted a significant amount of time and energy to it. However, the support of the Assembly is required, and though Vanel tried to energize the issue, Pretlow seemed to continue to drag it down.
Bonacic has said nothing of the sort, however. He simply ended the session with this comment: “Whenever you have the last day of session, things get complicated.”
With that, the best chance for New York to legalize and regulate online poker has gone into hiding for the summer. It is unclear if the bills could find new life in the fall during a special session or some other legislative avenue.
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