Legal Gambling / Online Poker in New York
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 best 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
The best 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. The rooms that best meet those thresholds make up our suggested online poker sites for players from New York:
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Latest Updates Through 2018
In 2016, New York took a major step forward in the legalization of online poker with a bill sponsored by State Senator John Bonacic in the Senate and Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow in the House of Representatives. The bill was a simple one that sought legal and regulated online poker only, without the addition of online casino games as in New Jersey. The bill died in the Assembly when Pretlow suddenly 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, and the Senate passed the bill in June by a wide approval 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 one specific clause seemed to create enough division that the bill could not pass – the bad actor clause.
The bad actor clause has held the California online poker debate hostage for several years, and it seemed to have caused concern in New York this year as well. The clause pertains to 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. Some want PokerStars to stay outside of New York for at least five years to pay for past mistakes with regard to US laws, but others see that the company paid its dues, rescued players from Full Tilt, UltimateBet, and Absolute Poker, and also now operates in New Jersey under full compliance and heavy scrutiny. That clause presented enough of a debate that it derailed the New York online poker bill in 2017, though it could regain life in the fall legislative session or come into clearer focus in 2018.
In April 2018, Assemblyman Clyde Vanel emerged as a new champion for the online poker bill. He claimed to be able to 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 signed in support of putting online poker in the budget, and though that failed, those same supporters sponsoring the bill could push it through the Assembly.
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.
When the New York legislative session did end late on the night of June 21, both online poker bills died. Chaos took over in the Senate in the last few weeks of work, with few bills moving forward for votes. Sports betting was among those that did not advance, along with online poker. The only possibility remaining for the legalization of online poker throughout the remainder of 2018 is for it to become a priority for debate and a vote during a special session after the summer break. There could be a comprehensive bill that combines online gaming and sports betting that warrants attention, though it seems unlikely.
Online poker then faces an uphill battle if it is moved to 2019, as Bonacic decided to retire this year. The champion of this legislation for the past several years will no longer be able to ensure its passage in the Senate after 2018.
Making Online Poker Accounts From New York
Thanks to the state’s involvement in online poker’s Black Friday, there are some online poker sites that restrict new signups from the state. Thankfully, however, this prohibition is not absolute, and you can be sure that you pick a room that allows players from New York simply by choosing any of the sites on our real-money page.
New York State Law and Online Poker
Gambling law is almost always open to interpretation, and New York’s poker laws are no exception. For that reason, it’s imperative that you retain qualified legal help if you need an answer about the legality of a given action, such as playing online poker for real money.
So, what’s the point of this section? We’ve tried to create a synopsis of the key points of New York gambling law, one that will make it easier for you to review the actual law yourself. This isn’t a substitute for legal advice, but it should help you to obtain a better sense of how the law works and provide a foundation for additional research.
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.
The size of the illegal gambling operation matters under New York law. Once your operation hits either five bets totaling over $5,000 in one day related to bookmaking, or more than $500 in a single day for operations involving a “lottery or policy scheme or enterprise,” the charge bumps up from a misdemeanor to a felony (Section 225.10).
To review the rest of New York gambling law, click here for the online version of the state’s statutes.
Will New York Regulate Online Poker?
You don’t hear much about online gambling plans coming out of Albany, but that doesn’t mean work isn’t underway. The current New York government has shown little opposition to gambling expansion, and poker is especially popular in the Empire State. It would be very surprising if New Jersey and other states came online and New York did not eventually follow. There has been significant in 2016 and 2017 regarding New York online poker legalization, especially with the completion of several new land-based casinos that see the benefits of partnering with online gambling operators. See the “New York Gambling: Recent News” section below for more specific information.
NY Poker & Gambling Facts
That’s a topic worthy more of a book than a quick section in our guide to NY online poker sites. Suffice it to say, unregulated gambling has been a part of the makeup of the state since there was a state to be made up. As other US states moved full-steam ahead to expand regulated gambling in the mid-twentieth century with pari-mutuel betting, lotteries and even casinos, New York followed. The lottery opened in 1967, horse racing came in 1970, tribal casinos in the 1990s, and racinos emerged in the early 2000s.
Regulated Gambling Activity in New York
Every major form of regulated gambling is available in New York, with brick-and-mortar casinos now opening with more in the progress of being built. New Yorkers now enjoy casino gambling as they have the state lottery, pari-mutuel wagering on racing, a variety of electronic games at the state’s racinos and tribal gambling facilities like the Seneca Allegany Casino for many years. With the increase of revenue and tourism in neighboring states like Pennsylvania due to gambling expansion, New York has followed suit and grown its own industry.
As of now, there are no state-regulated internet gambling options in New York. That doesn’t mean there aren’t legal online poker sites in New York; it only means that the state does not issue any sort of licenses for online gambling operators.
New York Poker & Gambling: Useful Sites
New York Gaming Association. Website for the primary trade group representing the racinos of New York state. Offers wealth of statistical information regarding gambling at New York’s racetracks.
NY Times Local Coverage . Arguably the best source for following the arc of commercial gambling expansion in the Empire State.
New York Gambling Industry Snapshot. Timeline, basic facts and figures and an overview of the financial contours of regulated online poker in New York from the UNLV Center for Gambling Research.
New York’s Role in Poker History & Culture
Poker and New York have intersected at interesting points in history. For example, one of the most famous gamblers in American history, Arnold Rothstein, was shot to death in New York’s Park Central Hotel during a game of poker. New York’s card clubs have been the breeding grounds for such well-known poker pros as Dan Harrington and Erik Seidel.
The city’s poker underworld provided a compelling and credible backdrop for the greatest poker movie of all time: Rounders. More recently, it was a New York-centered poker case that led Judge Jack Weinstein to rule that, for the purposes of federal law, poker should be considered a game of skill .
Sources & Citations For This Article on New York Online Poker
- Laws of New York
- Drilling Far From Imminent, but Debate Roils a Region
- UNLV Center for Gaming Research: New York Gaming Summary
- New York Council on Problem Gambling
- Problem Gambling Helpline Assistance
- National Council on Problem Gambling (New York)
- Official State Website
- Laws/Code of New York
- New York Legal Guide
- New York State Gaming Commission