Online poker legislation has a champion in New York, and he just happens to be the State Assembly’s Chairman of the Committee on Racing and Wagering.
Last week, Westchester Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow told FiOS1 News Breakers host Andrew Whitman he expects to see very little opposition to proposed online poker legislation in the New York legislature and it will be passed sooner rather than later.
“I don’t really see there being much opposition to moving this along,” Pretlow said. “Now it’s just to move it along.”
Two identical online poker bills were introduced in New York this year, one in the Senate and the second in the Assembly.
New York State Senate Chairman of the Committee on Racing, Gaming and Wagering John Bonacic introduced Bill S3898 to regulate online poker in February and it passed committee by an 11-0 vote on February 15. The bill is now awaiting Finance Committee approval.
Pretlow himself introduced the identical Bill A5250 to the Assembly on February 7.
The bills would allow for up to 11 online poker licensees associated with the state’s current legalized casinos and race track and video lottery terminal operations.
Previous efforts to legalize online poker failed to pass in 2016. Pretlow seems confident he has the support to move forward now, but with the current legislative session ending on June 21, he stopped short of making guarantees it would happen this year.
“There are some individuals in the administration that are really opposed to this,” he said. “They are saying it makes it too easy for people to gamble. We do have casinos and if people want to gamble they should be able to get in their cars and take a bus and play. But if its right there in their living rooms or their bedrooms, people will tend to spend too much of their income on poker.”
However, Pretlow said taking a closer look at the demographics should calm concerns.
“The clientele are different,” he said. “Studies have shown the people that play online poker aren’t the same ones that go into casinos and gamble. It’s a younger demographic.”
Pretlow admitted to having his own previous issues with legalizing online poker, but added that a recent visit to New Jersey showed him that geolocation software can guarantee only people situated inside the state’s borders can play, and that online security and regulations will help ensure cheating is not a factor.
“I just want to make sure if we allow it in New York it’s on the up and up and everybody has a chance at winning,” he said.
Pretlow added that online poker legislation also has the support of the budding casino industry in New York, including the race tracks and newly constructed Las Vegas-style casino properties, including the Rivers Casino and Resort, the Del Lago Resort and Casino, Tioga Downs and the Montreign Resort Casino, scheduled to open in 2018.
According to Pretlow, tax revenues from online poker would “more than likely be directed to public schools.”
Both current bills would classify poker as a game of skill, not a game of chance. However, Pretlow said lawmakers interested in legalizing online poker don’t necessarily want to see more live card rooms popping up across the state anytime soon.
“Poker is something that has been illegal in New York, so we take baby steps,” he said. “I want to legalize it basically in steps.”
While New York is considering legalizing online poker, online casino games are not attached to any of the proposed legislation.