Online poker is once again on the table in the New York state legislature, as a bill has been introduced that would legalize and regulate the pastime. Senate Bill 18, sponsored by Senator Joseph Addabbo (D – 15th District), would only legalize online poker, not online casino games, which have been more profitable in other states.

If At First You Don’t Succeed….

Lawmakers have been trying to legalize online poker in the Empire State since 2013 and I would love them to finally do it so I can have something to do while hiding from my in-laws when we go to visit (I kid, I kid!). A bill actually passed the Senate by an overwhelming margin in both 2016 and 2017 and got through the Senate Gaming Committee in 2018, but obviously, because we have to write this article, nothing has become law.

Assuming it can get through the Senate again – and that’s a big assumption, but clearly realistic – online poker does have support in the Assembly from its annual champion, Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow. He did say late last year, though, that he will put sports betting ahead of poker if it comes to it, telling Online Poker Report, “Online poker, I think the revenue for the state is projected at $20-25 million, while this is $150 million minimum. I have a much better argument for sports betting.”

Pretlow said he will still introduce an online poker bill this year, but will not package it with sports betting to give it a better chance to get through. He feels it needs to stand on its own merits and not just make it because it’s attached to something else.

Bill Basics

Senator Addabbo’s bill would assess a one-time, $10 million licensing fee on each operator and operators would have to pay a 15 percent tax on gross gaming revenue. Eleven licenses will be available with eligible applicants being ones who already have video lottery or Class III gaming licenses in New York.

Needless to say, it would be huge if New York finally legalized online poker. The fourth largest state in the country, it has an estimated 19.5 million residents and would easily be able to sustain a poker industry by itself. Currently, the largest state to have legal, regulated online poker is New Jersey, which has around 9 million residents. Delaware and Nevada are the only other states with active poker sites and their populations are of little impact.

Because of their size, Delaware and Nevada joined player pools five years ago. It was the only way for them to try to stay viable. In late 2017, New Jersey signed an interstate compact with the two states and the three finally began to share poker liquidity in 2018.

Pennsylvania legalize online poker in late 2017 and though licenses have been doled out, no sites have launched yet. It is expected that Pennsylvania (12.8 million residents) will eventually share liquidity with the other states, but that wouldn’t happen for quite some time.

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