New York Assemblyman Confident Online Poker Bill Will Move Forward



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Last year, arguably online poker’s biggest supporter in the New York legislature was the one who put the kibosh on the possibility of the game becoming legal in the state. Now, Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow has expressed confidence that something will get done on the matter this year.

In 2016, a bill which would legalize and regulate online poker passed the New York Senate easily by a vote of 53-5. Pretlow had a similar bill in the Assembly and had been championing poker for a number of years, so one would have thought that the bill would at least have a fighting chance after it moved on from the Senate. Not so. Pretlow had concerns about the ability of online poker operators to prevent cheating and to ensure that only players from within state borders could access the sites, so the bill was never even voted upon.

Speaking with Andrew Whitman of New York’s FIOS1 News last week, Pretlow said his concerns have been alleviated. He made a “field trip” to New Jersey, where online gambling is legal, to speak with the Attorney General to learn more and to view gaming technologies in action. He came away “satisfied” that geolocation technologies works and that there are sufficient barriers to cheating in place. Thus, he feels comfortable moving forward in New York to try to get online poker legalized.

Whitman asked him about the reclassification of poker from a game of chance to a game of a skill. Though Pretlow did not straight-out say that poker is definitely a game of skill, he made his case in a round-about way, saying that it just depends on the player. For some, chance plays a greater role and for others, skill plays a greater role.

While Pretlow does not know if the Governor would eventually sign an online poker bill into law, he feels confident that he will have enough support in the Assembly to get it through.

“When I do sign off on something,” he told Whitman, “my colleagues feel that it is a good deal and they don’t question why I made a certain decision. They know that if that decision was made, it’s for good reason. So I don’t really see there’s going to be much opposition to moving this along.”

The process of legalizing and regulating online poker in New York has already gotten underway this year. A couple weeks ago, Senator John Bonacic’s bill, S 3898 easily made it through the Senate’s Committee on Racing, Gaming and Wagering by a unanimous vote. It will now be looked at by the Senate Finance Committee.

It is a fairly straightforward bill, allowing a maximum of ten online operating licenses with a fee of $10 million each. Though the bill only specifically mentions hold’em and Omaha, it is assumed that most forms of poker would be permitted. Players must be at least 21-years old and be within state borders, though the bill opens up the opportunity to form interstate compacts so that New York could pool its players with other states.

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