Good news for poker players out of New York Tuesday as Senate Bill S5302 passed through the Senate Committee on Racing, Gaming and Wagering by a unanimous 9-0 vote. The bill aims to legalize and regulate “certain interactive poker games that are considered to be games of skill” (read: online poker). This is the first time that such a bill has ever advanced past a committee in the Empire State.
In a press release, executive director of the Poker Players Alliance (PPA) John Pappas said:
The PPA thanks Chairman John Bonacic and the Committee for acting quickly to pass iPoker legislation through the Senate Committee on Racing, Gaming and Wagering. If passed into law, the bill would provide New Yorkers who play poker online with a safe and regulated environment, while bringing in revenue for the state. We encourage the Finance Committee to move quickly to usher the legislation through the Senate, and also urge the Assembly to move forward with their respective legislation.
New York, while an extremely important state for the plight of online gambling (daily fantasy sports are taking heavy fire there), has not really been that much in the limelight when it comes to online poker. That is part of what makes this interesting – the committee passed this bill extremely quickly, only taking four minutes to conduct the hearing on Tuesday. It is still a bit of a mystery as to how much support it has in the state legislature as a whole, but advancing out of committee this quickly and by a unanimous vote can’t be a bad sign.
State Senator John Bonacic, who is both the sponsor of the bill and the chairman of the committee, said, “S.5302-B took a necessary step forward today with its vote out of the Racing Committee. The Bill now goes to the Finance Committee and I anticipate having ongoing discussions with my colleagues in both Houses regarding this bill as session moves forward.”
While optimistic, the PPA does have some trepidation, as the grassroots online poker advocacy group noted that some New York lawmakers feel that online poker should be put on the back burner until the state’s brick-and-mortar casinos are up and running. The PPA commented:
It would be a mistake for New York to wait for its brick-and-mortar casinos to go online. Moving Internet poker legislation now would establish an existing customer base of poker players for brick-and-mortar casinos when they open their doors for business. It’s New York’s turn to give their consumers what New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware constituents already have—a safe and regulated online market that is accountable to the players, regulators and law enforcement.
The New York Gaming Commission awarded three casino licenses in December 2015 to Montreign, Rivers Casino, and Lago Resort & Casino. Commercial casinos were authorized back in 2012 and the three casinos were approved in 2014, but the licenses were not handed out until just recently. All three are expected to open next year.