State Senator John Bonacic To Retire From Office This Year

State Senator John Bonacic To Retire From Office This YearNew York’s potential for passing online poker legislation has taken a positive turn of late, with forty-seven co-sponsors having added their names to Assemblyman Gary Pretlow’s iPoker bill (A.5250), thanks in no small part to lobbying efforts made by Assemblyman Clyde Vanel.
In the meantime, State Senator John Bonacic has been sitting on his companion bill (S.3898) in the Senate waiting for the right time to coordinate a further push with the Assembly, having previously ensured that his side of the legislature passed the bill for the past two years in a row.
Unfortunately, the drive towards online poker legislation in New York has now become a lot more complicated after Bonacic announced this week that he would not be seeking reelection in November, and would step down from his Senate seat after two decades in service.
Retiring From Politics
From 1990 to 1998, John Bonacic was elected four times to the New York State Assembly, before being elected to the New York State Senate, where he has remained for the past twenty years. Over his many years in the Senate, Bonacic has been a champion of gambling related issues, including being a lead sponsor of the 2013 constitutional amendment to authorize the building of non-tribal casino resorts, and its accompanying Upstate NY Gaming Economic Development Act.
As chair of the Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee, Bonacic has held a central role in dealing with gambling related legislation in the Senate, and in 2016 he introduced an online poker bill which successfully made it through the legislature, but later faltered in the Assembly. Bonacic was also integral in helping push the NY daily fantasy sports bill that passed in 2016, as well as passing a sports betting bill in 2018 designed to take advantage of a possible positive PASPA resolution in the Supreme Court this summer.
Having spent two decades in office, however, the 75 year old Republican New York State Senator said that he is now ready for retirement, and as he explained in a statement:
“The 20 years I have spent in the Senate have been rewarding both personally and professionally, despite the frustrations that all of us experience in any career. Twenty years, though, is enough, and I look forward to spending quality time with my bride, Pat, and my children and grandchildren.”
Online Poker Implications
Bonacic’s retirement at the end of the current legislative session could be either good or bad for online poker efforts in New York, depending upon whether it acts as a catalyst to complete the job before his exit, or alternatively divert his focus towards other pressing matters, such as helping to elect a successor in November.
The worst case scenario would involve no online poker bill passing in 2018, and following Bonacic’s departure no other sponsor for a bill coming forward for a while, and certainly not one with as much passion for the issue, or influence in the Senate. As online poker analyst Dustin Gouker tweeted recently:
“Bonacic helped NY DFS law became a reality and has led the charge for online poker. If the latter doesn’t happen this year, possibly bad news for future of online poker.”
More positively, Bonacic may be inclined to redouble his efforts to have online poker legislation passed before the end of his tenure, with Bonacic having already passed S.3898 in the Senate Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee at the start of this year, and currently waiting upon action in the Finance Committee. Despite any success, though,
Bonacic will still need to rely on the Assembly to uphold its part of the bargain by passing its companion bill, thus completing the legislative process.
After a flurry of activity in the Assembly in which 45 co-sponsors added their names to A.5250, however, just two further names have been added over the past ten days, giving an indication as to the significant hurdles which still lie ahead for online poker legislation in The Empire State.

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