With just over a week remaining in the legislative session, the chances of regulated online gambling in New York getting the green light this year are fading.
New York State Poker & Online Gambling Legislation Status
Poker is a game that has been very popular throughout the history of New York. Up until the 1990s poker players in New York did not have any legal ways to play so underground poker rooms were common. In the 1990s the state developed compacts with Indian Tribes to allow tribal casinos. These casinos offer poker games so that the residents of New York have a legal way to play poker.
Can Players From New York Play Poker Online?
Yes! Poker players from New York should have no problems finding an online site to play at. The federal government has made it harder for online poker sites to offer games to residents of the United States, but they have not made it impossible. We saw some of the most notable online poker sites pull out of the US market in 2011 when the federal government indicted the owners of some of the largest poker sites.
Smaller offshore poker sites were not targeted during this time. These sites continue to offer online poker games to poker players in New York. These sites are smaller than the major poker sites, but they still have very large multi-table tournaments and satellite tournaments to major events like the WSOP. There is a lot of money to be won at these sites.
The following poker sites accept players from New York:
Is it Legal to Play Online Poker in New York?
New York has a long list of laws pertaining to gambling. From the research that we have completed it appears that most of the gambling laws in New York are targeted to the operators of illegal gambling institutions. Online poker is a grey area in New York. We have found no laws that specifically mention online poker, but some of the other laws that New York has may make playing poker online illegal. We have a review of some of the laws that may pertain to online poker in New York below:
- New York defines a Contest of Chance as
Contest of chance means any contest, game, gaming scheme or gaming device in which the outcome depends in a material degree upon an element of chance, notwithstanding that skill of the contestants may also be a factor therein.(Section 225.00-1)
- Gambling is defined as
A person engages in gambling when he stakes or risks something of value upon the outcome of a contest of chance or a future contingent event not under his control or influence, upon an agreement or understanding that he will receive something of value in the event of a certain outcome.(Section 225.00-2)
- Use of
unlawful wagering instrumentsis a class a misdemeanor. It is unclear whether gambling online or on a mobile device can be considered use of an unlawful wagering instrument. (Section 225.65)
- Most penalties are targeted at operators of illegal gambling organizations. 
- Home poker games seem to be legal in New York as long as no one is taking a rake from the game.
- Charity casino nights seem to be legal in New York with proper licensing.
We are not lawyers. We have just provided an overview of the laws that we find interesting in New York pertaining to gambling. We can’t tell you whether or not it is legal to play poker online in New York. We advise you to consult a lawyer if you are concerned with the legality of playing poker online in New York.
Significantly, the state of New York “legalized” (regulated) Daily Fantasy Sports in 2016 on the basis it was a primarily game of skill. Since 2013, attempts have been made to regulate online poker using the same argument. As you will see in the “Recent Developments” section below, the attempts have to date been unsuccessful.
New York Gambling History
New York has played a big role in the history of gambling in the United States. A lot of the gambling throughout the United States originated in New York. Many immigrants first arrived in New York. New York was big in the gambling industry in these days. They promoted gambling equipment to the new immigrants. The immigrants moved on to other areas of the United States and set up gambling organizations. The Las Vegas Strip even originated from the gambling equipment that came out of New York.
Gambling in the early years of New York wasn’t legal, but law officials tended to turn a blind eye to the activity going on. It wasn’t until 1966 that New York officially had some legalized gambling in the state. The New York State Lottery launched in 1966. It was the second legalized lottery in the United States.
New York quickly moved forward with more legalized forms of gambling. It was the first state to legalize off-track betting on the horse races in 1971. Shortly after that, the state developed a progressive jackpot on the lottery in 1978. Lottery revenues and pari-mutuel betting revenues in New York are among the highest in the United States.
New York dabbled with the idea of launching state-run casinos. They almost legalized these casinos, but reports of corruption and crimes in other states that had state casinos deterred New York from legalizing them.
Indian Tribal Casinos have been allowed in New York State since the 1980s – although the first official compact was not signed until 1993 . Twenty years later in 2013, voters approved a proposal to build up to seven new commercial casinos. The first commercial casino opened its doors in December 2016, but the tax revenues expected at the time have failed to materialize.
Legalized Gambling Options in New York
Legalized gambling is widely available in New York. Betting on horse races, lottery, charity casino nights, Indian Tribe Casinos, the recently-opened commercial casinos, charity bingo halls, and much more are available. If you are looking for a legal gambling venue in New York, you should have no problems finding them.
New York Related News
Not only are anti-gambling groups filing lawsuits to prevent unconstitutional expansions of gambling, online operators are now squaring up against each other.
The prospects for regulated online poker took a blow this week due to comments a constitutional amendment would be required to approve mobile sports betting.
A bill is passing through New York´s legislature that could delay the introduction of online gambling until the extent of problem gambling is fully understood.
For the sixth year in succession, an attempt is being made to regulate online poker in New York even though the concerns from previous years still exist.
Last week, former New York-based customers of Bovada received an email announcing “We´re Back in the Empire State” a year after withdrawing its service.
A New York judge has ruled the state had no authority to reclassify DFS as a game of skill in 2016 to circumnavigate the constitutional ban on gambling.
Recent Developments in New York Online Poker Legislation
Since 2013, there have been annual attempts to regulate online poker in New York. However, although support exists in the Senate for the regulation of online poker based on the skill vs chance argument, there is opposition in the Assembly – primarily due to fears of cannibalizing the under-performing commercial casino industry.
Will New York Regulate Online Poker in the Future?
There is a strong case for the regulation of online poker in New York, and many industry professionals are surprised the necessary legislation has not already been passed. The biggest hurdle appears to be the potential for cannibalization, and – as the proposals for regulation are “poker-only” – the potential revenue for the state may not compensate for any further shortfall in brick-and-mortar casino revenues.