It has become almost as agonizing to watch the state of New York dance with online poker as it is watching California. For years both states have dallied with the notion of passing online poker legislation, only to turn away from the industry that potentially could net them billions in tax revenues. Could that be changing in the state of New York, however? And could it happen in 2024?

All About the Benjamins

In the Empire State, the major drivers for online poker regulation have been New York State Senator Joe Addabbo and Assemblyman Gary Pretlow. In the 2023 legislative calendar, Addabbo presented online poker regulations that would have taxed the industry at a 30% rate. The reason for this exorbitant price is simply the revenues; Addabbo believes that the tax rate would allow the state to clear $2 billion in revenues per year.

Needless to say, those legislative efforts in 2023 did not go anywhere. But Addabbo and Pretlow have retooled their proposals in an effort at making online poker more palatable to their fellow legislators. Instead of the 30% taxation rate (online sportsbooks in New York are taxed at an unbelievable 51%), their new proposals – SB9226 in the New York Senate and AB1380 in the General Assembly – would have a taxation rate of 15%. Additionally, the number of potential licenses would be upped to ten licenses for operators, which would make up for the lower tax rate.

There is one major reason that Addabbo and Pretlow think this may be the year for online poker to go through in New York. Currently, the budget deficit for the state sits at roughly $9 billion. It is expected to go up to $13 billion in 2024 and, with other areas of New Yorkers’ lives taxed heavily already, there is a need to create new revenue streams for the state. Hence, the two legislators that have pushed for the passage of online gaming believe online poker (and ONLY online poker – there is no discussion of online casinos) is ready to be approved.

Battle Lines Have Been Drawn

While both Addabbo and Pretlow head the committees that would approve online poker, that does not necessarily mean they would be rubber-stamped. Both bills sit in their respective committees – Addabbo’s Senate Racing, Gaming, and Wagering Committee, and Pretlow’s Standing Committee on Racing and Wagering – and neither of the proposed bills are even scheduled for a hearing currently. That is important because of another issue – time.

The legislative session in Albany ends on June 6. Any proposed legislation would have to have been passed out of the New York General Assembly before that date (25 days away). Then there would be another hurdle to overcome – Governor Kathy Hochul.

In January there were thoughts of expansion of the gaming laws in the state, but those were quickly shot down by Hochul when she approved the state’s budget for 2024. That budget included no expansion of any type of gaming in the state, let alone the approval of any new online gaming measures. That means that passage of any new legislation would be pushed off to later in 2024 and the measures from Addabbo and Pretlow.

There is also a great deal of pushback from major players in the industry. New York’s powerful casino workers’ union is against any expansion into the online arena, under the auspices of eroding the live gaming arena with online play. Additionally, the political director of the Hotel and Gaming Trades Council, Bhav Tibrewal, has taken a decidedly anti-online gaming stance for his organization.

The entire question will be decided by June 6. If there is no passage of the bills currently available, then it will not be until 2025 that the issue can be broached again. With a statewide population of roughly 19.5 million, the addition of online poker in New York would be a major milestone, but the odds look stacked against it.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *