Poker News

Although he only introduced the bill earlier this week, the author of the bill in front of the New York State Legislature immediately turned around and stated that the bill that he wrote wouldn’t be a high priority for him.

On Monday, State Senator John Bonacic (R-Mt. Hope) introduced his bill, SB 6913, with the goal of opening up the Empire State for online poker operations. The bill, which is quite similar to other states that have passed online gaming and/or poker regulations (Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey), would allow for an intrastate network that, with New York’s nearly 20 million residents, would conceivably be able to subsist on its own. The bill would allow for 10 ten-year licenses (at $10 million a pop) and would be limited to just online poker, what Bonacic called games with a “significant degree of skill.”

Following the afternoon introduction of that bill, however, Bonacic was quoted by the Associated Press’ David Klepper as saying, “I don’t intend to push it this year. We need to start a discussion.” Bonacic points out that the bill doesn’t have a similar action in the state’s General Assembly and he doesn’t expect that any companion legislation will appear in that body. He also cited the expansion of live “brick and mortar” gaming in New York, which recently allowed for the construction of four private casinos in the state (previous operations were owned by Indian gaming consortiums), and the desire of the State Legislature to see what type of impact that has before expanding into online poker.

Klepper does state that there would be some willing players that would step in if there was regulated online poker in New York. MGM Resorts International President Bill Hornbuckle is quoted by Klepper as saying, “New York would be an extraordinary market for this type of entertainment. We are excited by the opportunity to offer online poker to New York players and will pursue it aggressively.”

Many states are in the same situation as New York in that they are examining a possible expansion into online gaming and/or poker but haven’t exactly pulled the trigger. California has two bills currently pending in its General Assembly – Assembly Bill 229 from Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer and Senate Bill 1366 from Senator Lou Correa – but the same political actions that have thwarted potential action in the Golden State – the infighting between Indian casinos, California card rooms and horse racing tracks – have bogged those efforts down once again.

In Illinois, Senate President John Cullerton has held hearings on the subject of online gaming for the Land of Lincoln, but he faces an uphill battle in his legislature. Although the state’s temporary income tax increase is set to expire this year (and Cullerton believes that online gaming could offset the loss of those revenues), there doesn’t seem to be an appetite to enter into that arena. The state is entertaining the idea of expanding its land-based operations, including opening a casino in the Chicago area.

The same is true in the state of Florida. Instead of looking to overturn the law passed last year that banned gaming “on electronic devices” that forced such subscription poker rooms as ClubWPT out of the state, the state legislature has instead focused on expansion of its live casino industry beyond what is offered by the Seminole Indian tribe. Today, those efforts fell apart as Florida Governor Rick Scott was unable to renegotiate the compact with the Seminoles (the tribe has a five year deal in place worth approximately $1 billion in revenues for the state), effectively ending the drive by the state legislature that would have allowed for two “destination resort” hotel and casino complexes in Miami.

As you can see, there are many complexities towards passage of any online gaming legislation, whether it is for full online casino action or simply online poker. Whether this will lead to states pushing through those issues – or whether they will be sitting on the sidelines and waiting to see how Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey fare – is the key question.

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