New York Senate Pushes Online Poker Bill Amidst Chaos

New York Senate Pushes Online Poker Bill Amidst Chaos
Bonacic takes charge of online poker legislation

New York has been so close to legalizing online poker several times. Experts and industry analysts alike seemed certain that New York would pass a bill in 2018.

The year thus far, however, has been filled with chaos. In the Assembly, one member continued making excuses for why its online poker bill has been and continues to have problems, while another member grabbed the torch and ran with it, adding nearly 50 co-sponsors to the bill in a matter of weeks. In the Senate, a bill that passed last year remained stagnant in a committee awaiting word from the Assembly side, though its champion is now retiring this year. And in the meantime, the United States Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act to allow states to legalize sports betting, while New York politics has been spiraled out of control to the point that the Senate now seems unable to function.

The Senate just made another move in the right direction, passing its online poker bill through to another committee. However, there are two weeks left in the session, which ends June 20.

Can positive movement in the Senate make a difference in the Assembly? Does interactive poker legislation have enough bi-partisan support to pass despite the chaos? Will sports betting help or hurt online poker? What are the odds that this can be done and signed into law in the next two weeks?

All eyes are on New York for the answers.

Senate Bill Moves Forward

As brought to light by Online Poker Report, the Senate online poker bill finally moved out of the Finance Committee, where it has been stagnant since January 2018. State Senator John Bonacic’s S.3898 then moved to the Rules Committee and awaits action there.

While this progress doesn’t guarantee the bill’s passage from the Rules Committee and then to the Senate for a vote, it does show that Bonacic has not forgotten about online poker. Considering he passed this bill (and a previous version of it) in past years, he seemed to have no worries that it could pass again in 2018. However, he was likely waiting on action on his companion bill in the Assembly, which is sponsored by Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow.

That bill had been promised for several years, and while Bonacic held up his end of the deal in the Senate, Pretlow fell short of even putting Assembly version A.5250 up for a floor vote. Fellow Assemblyman Clyde Vanel joined Pretlow in 2018, however, and brought new momentum to the fight for online poker. And while he was successful in garnering nearly 50 co-sponsors, his progress has been downplayed by Pretlow, who claims to still be unsure of enough support for Assembly passage. It should be no surprise that Bonacic sat back to see if anything would change on the Assembly side.

The latest move from Bonacic, however, is a bit of a surprise, as only two weeks remain in the session, which is scheduled to wrap on June 20.

Inside Knowledge

Clearly, Bonacic has a plan. He may have knowledge of something happening with sports betting legislation that could include online poker.

Technically, sports betting is already legal in New York. Voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2013 as a part of the Upstate NY Gaming Economic Development Act that also authorized four land-based casinos. The recent US Supreme Court ruling put it into effect. What is required now is legislation to update the amendment and create a framework for the state regulator. There is widespread support for bills in both houses of the legislature, but the proposals’ details must be in agreement for voting. And this is not without its complications.

Poker fans will await further actions from Bonacic on the internet gaming bill.

Further Complications

The New York Senate is in a state of disarray. When a Republican member of the Senate recently returned to military service, it left an almost even number of Democrats and Republicans in the chamber but neither with the 32 votes necessary to pass any legislation. And when Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul took over as Senate President to help Democrats achieve their majority, things quickly descended into chaos.

The negativity is so bad that some legislators have proposed an early end to the session. The session is scheduled to end on June 20, which only leaves two weeks as it is.

In addition, Bonacic is retiring this year. He likely wants to pass the online poker bill that he’s championed for several years. This puts added pressure on him to finish what he started, though he cannot do it without cooperation in the Assembly.

Even with so many complications, the next week may clarify what exactly is happening with online poker in New York.

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 PokerStars.com 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.

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