I enjoy both online poker and daily fantasy sports. Neither is perfect – there are certainly issues with each that I would like fixed (hey sites: call me, my consulting rates are competitive) – but both pastimes are a lot of fun and should be legalized and regulated across the United States. And they both constitute gambling. Thus, it vexes me that DFS, despite being the much less mature industry, has been gaining acceptance from lawmakers at an astronomically faster rate than online poker. Case in point: over the weekend, the New York legislature passed a bill that legalizes and regulates DFS, while at the same time the state Assembly didn’t even vote on an online poker bill.
On Saturday, the New York Assembly passed A10736, the DFS legalization bill, by a 91 to 22 vote, sending it over to the Senate. Senators discussed their twin bill, S8153, the rest of the day and night, finally passing it by a 45 to 17 vote at two o’clock in the morning. The measure now rests in the hands of Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has ten days from Saturday morning to sign or veto the bill. He is expected to sign it, but even if he takes a different route, it will almost certainly still become law. If he does nothing, it automatically becomes law, and if he vetoes it, both chambers of the legislature can overrule that veto with a two-thirds vote. And since they already voted on it by a wide enough margin, the bill should be veto-proof.
This is great news for New York daily fantasy fans and especially for the two largest DFS sites, DraftKings and FanDuel. The two sites have been in a legal struggle with New York and Attorney General Eric Scheiderman, eventually agreeing to withdraw from the New York market. Now that it looks like DFS will be legal in the Empire State, the sites are expected to jump back into the mix. Without the legislation, they would have had to fight it out in court.
As for poker, it was another loss. S5302, which would legalize and regulate online poker in New York, had already passed the Senate easily, 53 to 5. Rep. Gary Pretlow’s twin bill, though, stalled out in the Assembly, not even getting a courtesy vote. Pretlow was also the sponsor of the DFS bill, just like Sen. John Bonacic was the sponsor of both the DFS and online poker bills in the Senate.
One of the main goals of online poker regulation is to protect consumers, but Sen. Bonacic also saw it (as most do) as a way to help the state’s economy. “These are policy decisions,” he told LoHud.com. “I was trying to help the racinos and the casinos. Had that been approved, it would have been private-job creation. I thought it was a good thing for New York.”
Jeffrey Gural, the chairman of American Racing, the company that operates Vernon Downs and Tioga Downs, felt that online poker should be legalized because it will protect players who are currently playing on offshore sites. He also believes it would be a bigger money maker for the state than DFS will be, telling Syracuse.com, “I think [the online poker] is a good idea. The daily fantasy sports doesn’t generate money for the state. But the poker would generate real money.”
It is certainly disappointing for poker fans that we will have to wait until the next legislative session to try to get online poker legalized in New York, especially when DFS was able to get through. Perhaps lawmakers look upon DFS more favorably than online poker because fantasy sports have been an accepted recreation in the U.S. for decades, the professional sports leagues have strong ties to the major DFS sites, and the DFS sites are based in the U.S., as opposed to online poker sites, which have historically operated from other countries. Things would be much simpler if it was all just legalized on a federal level, but that’s not happening, so we’ll just have to try again in New York.