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New York Gambling Laws & Online Poker in New York

New York online poker
New York Gambling Laws & Online Poker in New York
Last Updated March 15, 2021

Just like massive slices of pizza and talking far more loudly than appropriate, poker is a part of New York culture.  Many know New York more for its legendary underground poker rooms than its online poker scene, but a sizeable chunk of online poker’s talent hails from the poker proving ground of New York state.  For players looking to join that elite class – or maybe just hoping to try their luck with a few hands of poker played online – we present this complete Guide to Playing Online Poker From New York.

New York and Legal Online Poker

New York online poker sites share a few qualities.  First of all, we only list sites that hold a legal and current license to operate.  Second, we only list rooms that have long-standing reputations for treating players fairly.  Finally, we only consider rooms for inclusion on our list of the top New York poker rooms that attract casual players – meaning you can profit at the games.

Latest New York Online Poker and Gambling Developments

In 2016, New York took a major step forward as by State Senator John Bonacic in the Senate and Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow in the House of Representatives sponsored an online poker bill. The bill sought legal and regulated online poker only, without online casino games like in New Jersey. The bill died in the Assembly when Pretlow expressed doubts about the safety of the games due to concerns from fellow legislators.

However, the same two lawmakers introduced bills in 2017 as well. The Senate passed the bill in June by the margin of 54-8. A companion bill in the House failed to progress, again, as happened the previous year. Pretlow initially expressed optimism for widespread support of the bill that year, but the bad actor clause caused division in the ranks. The bad actor clause held back the California online poker debate for years, and it seemed to have caused concern in New York this year as well.

The clause punishes online poker operators who continued to serve US customers after the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) passed and became law, and the company that will want to enter the US market under this status is PokerStars. PokerStars operates in New Jersey under full compliance and heavy scrutiny, but it dominates the market, so some want to bar it from their state.

In April 2018, Assemblyman Clyde Vanel emerged as a new champion for the online poker legislation. Vanel claimed he could garner 60-70 co-sponsors for the bill and planned to put it up for a vote in June. He cited the dozens of legislators who supported putting online poker in the budget. Within weeks, Vanel had secured nearly 50 co-sponsors for the Assembly’s online poker bill, and the process was continuing into May. As the Chairman of the Internet and New Technology Subcommittee, he was in prime position to push the legislation.

In early June, Bonacic moved his Senate bill forward. S.3898 passed the Finance Committee, though the companion proposal in the Assembly had to move quickly to get through several committees before the session ended on June 21. Even with Vanel’s help, however, Pretlow had not been able to advance A.5250 whatsoever.

By the end of session on June 21, both online poker bills died. Sports betting was among those that did not advance, along with online poker. Online poker appeared to face an uphill battle in 2019, as Bonacic retired. During the first week of January 2019, though, a new champion for online poker in New York emerged as Senator Joe Addabbo introduced S.00018, a bill to legalize online poker only by classifying it as a game of skill. Nearly one month later, Pretlow proposed A.04924, which was a carbon copy of Addabbo’s bill.

By mid-May 2019, it became clear that neither bill would find any success. As in so many other states, the priority had become sports betting, and Addabbo turned his attention to offering mobile sports wagering. He admitted as much in the summer months and said that online poker would only be addressed “once we have proven ourselves in treating all the issues for mobile sports betting.”

Sports betting is legal in New York, and the first bet was placed by Pretlow in July 2019. However, any movement toward online or mobile options remains uncertain as 2019 comes to a close.

The start of 2020 brought another attempt at an online poker bill from Senator Addabbo. He reintroduced S.18 from last year, as permitted by New York’s legislative rules. Assemblyman Pretlow brought his A.4924 back as the companion bill as well. It is not likely that the bills will be pursued, but the lawmakers want to keep them alive just in case.

Meanwhile, Addabbo also introduced S.17D to move sports betting into the mobile and internet realm, something he admitted will take precedence over online poker and any other form of internet gaming. If he finds success with his sports betting goals, he may bring online poker along with it, but it is not a priority this year.

There isn’t much progress as of January 2021, we’ll keep an eye on any updates.

New York Gambling & Poker Laws Summarized

State Code Section(s)PEN.225; PEN.470; RPMW.100-1401; GML.9A; GML186-195;
Definition of GamblingA person engages in gambling when he stakes or risks something of value upon the outcome of a contest of chance or a future contingent event not under his control or influence, upon an agreement or understanding that he will receive something of value in the event of a certain outcome.
Definition of Contest of ChanceAny contest, game, gaming scheme or gaming device in which the outcome depends in a material degree upon an element of chance, notwithstanding that skill of the contestants may also be a factor therein.
Definition of PlayerA person who engages in any form of gambling solely as a contestant or bettor, without receiving or becoming entitled to receive any profit therefrom other than personal gambling winnings, and without otherwise rendering any material assistance to the establishment, conduct or operation of the particular gambling activity.
Online Poker/GamblingLegislators have been working to pass bills to legalize online poker in New York for several years. Bills have twice passed the Senate but not the Assembly, and the current bills in 2018 did not pass either house. There will likely be another effort in 2019 for online gaming.
Live PokerThere are poker rooms in many of the state’s casinos that offer cash games and tournament poker.
CasinosThere are a number of Native American casinos and racetracks with casino games (racinos) operating in the state, and several commercial casinos are opening in 2018 and 2019 as full-blown casino resorts.
Sports BettingNew York voted to legalize sports betting long before the 2018 US Supreme Court decision overturning PASPA, but new laws must be passed to regulate the activity. Bills are pending in both houses of the legislature and had not passed in the first half of 2018.
DFSThe legislature passed a law to regulate daily fantasy sports in 2016.
Other Forms of GamblingHorse and harness racing, off-track pari-mutuel wagering, bingo, lottery, charitable gambling, social gambling in private settings.

Making Online Poker Accounts From New York

Due to New York City banks’ role in online poker’s Black Friday, there are some online poker sites that restrict new signups from the state.  The prohibition is not absolute, so most sites on our real-money page accept play from New York.

New York State Law and Online Poker

New York law defines gambling as risking “something of value” on a future outcome beyond one’s “control or influence” with the understanding that they might receive “something of value” if a “certain outcome” occurs (Section 225.00(2)).

The state law of New York also offers a definition of a contest of chance: “Any contest, game, gaming scheme or gaming device in which the outcome depends in a material degree upon an element of chance, notwithstanding that skill of the contestants may also be a factor therein” (Section 225.00(1)).

There are no criminal penalties for persons who act only as players in illegal gambling activities.  There may be other crimes stemming from the activity (tax avoidance, for example), but the criminal penalties in New York state gambling law are directed squarely at those who run and profit from the business of illegal gambling.

Regulated Gambling Activity in New York

When other states moved to expand regulated gambling in the mid twentieth century with pari-mutuel betting and lotteries, New York followed suit. The lottery opened in 1967, horse racing got underway in 1970, and tribal casinos opened in the 1990s. Race tracks then blossomed into racinos by adding some casino games in the early 2000s.

In 2013, voters of New York approved an amendment to the state’s constitution so non-tribal casinos could be built and operate all casino games. From there, four casinos were granted licenses to operate around the state.

Sports betting was actually legalized in 2013 as well, but it wasn’t allowed in casinos until the 2018 US Supreme Court decision, which overturned PASPA and allowed each state in America to legalize sports betting. At that point, the New York legislature updated that law and implemented it, and the first sports wagers at New York casinos were placed in 2019.

Famous New York Poker Players

New York card clubs, mostly operating underground, are responsible for many of today’s most succesful poker players. Many of them, like Erik Seidel, started playing backgammon at clubs like the Mayfair Club, but they soon found that poker also employed skill and analysis. Players began to emerge from the Mayfair in droves in the 1980s and 1990s, as names like Dan Harrington, Howard Lederer, Steve Zolotow, Stu Ungar, Jason Lester, Paul Magriel, and Mickey Appleman were forever tied to the Mayfair.

Many players from New York also got their start in the game via online poker. Players like Isaac Haxton, Scott Seiver, and Andrew Lichtenberger began playing during the poker boom of the early 2000s and became big stars in the game.

The top live tournament money earner from New York is Bryn Kenney, who formerly played a great deal of poker online but now focuses on high-stakes live games. Kenney rose to prominence in the past decade, but he became the top money earner in the world in 2019. As of November 2019, his lifetime tournament earnings topped $55.5 million.

Erik Seidel sits in the second spot in New York and fourth in the world with $37 million. He is one of the most respected and skilled poker pros in the game.

As of November 2019, these are the top ten live tournament poker pros from New York:

1. Bryn Kenney ($55.5 million)
2. Erik Seidel ($37 million)
3. Isaac Haxton ($27.7 million)
4. Scott Seiver ($23.8 million)
5. Nick Schulman ($13.1 million)
6. Alex Foxen ($13 million)
7. Vanessa Selbst ($11.9 million)
8. Dan Shak ($10.5 million)
9. Andrew Lichtenberger ($10.5 million)
10. Elio Fox ($9.5 million)

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