Coordinated iPoker Bills in New York Enter Both Chambers

The push towards online poker legalisation in New York has got off to a positive start in 2017, and following New York Senator John Bonacic submitting his online poker bill, S03898, to the state senate on January 27th, Assemblyman Gary Pretlow (photo) has done likewise in the New York Assembly with a carbon copy bill called A05250.
Both Bonacic and Pretlow chair the Racing, Gaming and Wagering committees in the Senate and Assembly, respectively, with a central theme of their legislation being to redefine poker as a game of skill, rather than one in which the element of luck dominates. In August of 2016, for instance, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a Daily Fantasy Sports bill into law, with many advocates now hopeful that poker’s regulation will be the next natural step.
If poker does ultimately receive the same treatment, then provisions have already been made to grant 11 operators online poker licenses, each of whom would have to pay a fee of $10 million in order to offer tournaments and cash games in the state of almost 20 million people.
Unfortunately, there are numerous challenges to overcome before online poker may become a reality in New York. Last year, for instance, a similar bill introduced by Bonacic sailed past the Senate by a margin of 53-5, but at the same time the Assembly failed to even consider it. Another factor that could hold developments up is how to go about convincing lawmakers that poker is a game of skill, especially because of the game’s unique betting structure. As Pretlow commented on the issue last year:
“In poker, you’re betting and you’re changing the bet by raising. That’s gambling. In my legislative finding, I found DFS is not gambling. I can’t find that poker is not gambling.”
At the time, Bonacic responded to the assertion by stating that the best hand in a poker game doesn’t always win, and that is something that doesn’t happen unless you’re talking about a game of skill. Pretlow then went on to raise cheating and collusion concerns over online poker, but with Pretlow and Bonacic now submitting joint iPoker bills, it seems like the Assembly and Senate may finally be ready to coordinate their legislative push.

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