Start spreading the news: New York may be the next state to take a serious run at regulating online poker. A bill that would do just that was introduced in the New York Senate on Friday, opening the door to Internet poker in the Empire State.
The bill – introduced by State Senator John Bonacic (R-42nd District) – would amend current laws that govern the state’s horse racing industry and wagering to allow for online poker, while not legalizing other forms of Internet gambling.
The distinction seems to be that online poker is seen as a game of skill, as opposed to many gambling games that are luck-based. The bill points out that Texas Hold’em and Omaha – the two games that the legislation would initially authorize – are “complex forms of poker which involve player strategy and decision-making and which pit the skill levels of the players against each other.”
“As games of skill, these forms of poker do not fall under the definition of gambling as prohibited by the penal law,” the bill states in its introductory section.
“Bad Actor” Clause Present
The bill would allow for up to ten licenses to operators. Each license would cost $10 million to acquire, and would be valid for a decade before needing to be renewed. Revenues would be taxed at 15 percent, at least under current law.
But not everyone would be welcome to the party. As in other online gaming bills, the Bonacic legislation features a so-called “bad actor” clause that would prevent companies that continued offering online gambling in the USA after the 2006 passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA). The bill states that those who offered Internet gaming to New York residents before that date should be treated differently than those who “continued to flout U.S. Federal and New York law thereafter.”
“Granting those persons licensing privileges…would reward unlawful gaming activity, would permit manifestly unsuitable persons to profit from their unlawful gaming activity and would create unfair competition with licensees that respected federal and state law,” the bill states.
This provision would keep several major poker companies out of the New York market, including key site PokerStars. The web poker giant has struggled to regain a foothold in the United States, as it has been ineligible in jurisdictions with such rules and also failed to be approved for a license in New Jersey.
The bill does give applications the chance to present evidence that their activities weren’t unlawful.
A Prime Target for Web Gaming
With no federal level online gambling legislation on the horizon, New York is one of the states most likely to host successful Internet poker games – perhaps second only to California among U.S. states. With a population of more than 19.5 million, there are more than twice as many residents than in neighboring New Jersey, which has regulated online casinos and poker sites.
New York is also no stranger to gambling expansion. Last year, the state authorized up to seven new resort casinos, with the first four coming in upstate regions over the next few years. The New York Senate also passed a resolution showing support for Internet gaming in 2013.