State Senator John Bonacic Let NY Play

State Senator John Bonacic introduced an online poker bill in New York earlier this year, and MGM Resorts is on board with a new Let NY Play campaign. (Image: Lori Van Buren/Times Union)

Let NY Play, a push for online gambling in New York State, appears to be the work of MGM Resorts International, a company that is hoping to become a major player in the world of online gambling.

That information comes from a recent report in The New York Times, which says that MGM is behind the Let NY Play campaign that’s been making waves on social media in recent weeks.

That campaign began a few weeks ago, when messages about the possibility of online gambling in New York started showing up on Facebook and Twitter. The messages were generally all on the same page, saying that since New Jersey players could play online poker, the games should be available in New York as well.

Pushes for Online Poker

That turns out to be part of a campaign by MGM that also includes a lobbying effort in the state. Earlier this year, the company made its voice heard in Albany, where they supported legislation proposed by State Senator John Bonacic (R-Catskills) that would have allowed for online poker in New York.

MGM even commissioned a study that looked at how much money could be made from online poker in New York. According to that analysis, New Yorkers current bet up to $110 million a year in unlicensed Internet poker games, and the state might be able to earn as much as $50 million to $80 million a year in taxes if they could get these players into a licensed and regulated online gambling system.

Of course, even more money would be available if casino games were offered along with poker. But for now, at least, MGM officials think poker-only has the best chance for success.

“The reality is that poker is the one [game] whose business model is already established and the one that would be the most acceptable and appropriate, certainly from a political point of view,” said MGM Executive Vice President Alan Feldman.

New Jersey Tempers Expectations

Bonacic is said to have warned MGM that getting online poker approved might take some time. He also said that it might take a while before revenues came up to the levels their analysis suggested. But MGM likely already knew that, given their experiences in neighboring New Jersey.

MGM owns half of the Borgata, the most successful Atlantic City casino both in terms of land-based and online operations. But while they’ve done the best of the New Jersey online sites, there’s still no denying that revenues have been far lower than the lofty numbers that were projected by Governor Chris Christie and other officials.

“It’s been a little bit slower to start than some ha expected,” Feldman said. “But we think over time it’s going to be exactly what they did expect and more.”

MGM, which has been among the most vocal proponents of online gambling among major American casino firms, has also considered using its own brand for a New Jersey online casino. That may be much easier to accomplish than getting legislation passed in New York, where a groundswell, if one is coming, still has a long way to go.

According to the Times, the Let NY Play Facebook page has just about 5,000 likes so far, while the group’s Twitter feed has around 350 followers. Assemblyman Gary Pretlow (D-Mount Vernon) was also quoted as saying that he had only heard from a single citizen in favor of online poker so far.