New York State Senate Factors Revenue from Online Poker into Draft Budget Plan

Posted on: March 16, 2017, 05:00h. 

Last updated on: March 16, 2017, 03:49h.

The New York State Senate has included revenue from legalized, regulated online poker in its 2017-18 budget plan. But before you New York poker players break out the ticker tape start dancing, a couple of caveats.

New York Assemblyman Gary Pretlow will back online poker in the House this year.
All eyes will be on Gary Pretlow this year, as the New York State Assemblyman has insisted he will throw his weight behind online poker in the lower chamber. (Image: John Carl D’Annibale/Times Union)

First, online poker was also included in the first draft of the Senate’s 2016-17 budget and yet regulation did not happen. It was left out of the final version.

And second, neither the House nor Governor Andrew Cuomo has made room for online poker regulation in their own budget plans.

The next step, then, lies in the Senate convincing the House to come on board with their plan, or at least the online poker part of it. Whether the House is willing and able is really anyone’s guess.

Poker in the House

Senator John Bonacic’s online poker bill sailed through the Senate last year, passed by an emphatic margin of 53 to 5. But Bonacic’s counterpart in the lower chamber, Representative Gary Pretlow, dragged his heels, grumbling about it being a “1000-1 shot” and, at one point, even questioned whether poker was a game of skill at all.

It was an astonishing statement since one of the principle aims of the bill he was sponsoring was to reclassify poker as a game of skill.

The bill is back this year, with the same sponsors in each chamber. The support is clearly there in the Senate but the appetite for online poker in the House is still a big unknown because it was never really tested by Pretlow last year.

But Pretlow has apparently changed his tune following a meeting with the New Jersey Division on Gaming Enforcement which helped him assuage some of his fears surrounding player security and protection in a future regulated market on New York.

He says he is now prepared to throw his weight behind the bill does not see foresee “much opposition to moving this along.”

$110 Million Goes to Black Market

The final barrier to regulation, of course, may or may not come in the form of Governor Cuomo, whose personal feelings on the matter are unknown.

However, his press secretary Dani Lever recently reminded local media that the state had only recently launched its first full commercial casino operations and that “any proposal that could potentially impact that would have to be reviewed very carefully.”

A study commissioned in 2014 by MGM Resorts suggested that New York residents could be spending as much as $110 million a year on the offshore online poker market.

With a population of 19.75 million, more than twice that of New Jersey, it’s believed online poker could boost state coffers to the tune of anything from $50 million to $161 million, depending, of course, on who you speak to.