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Regulated Online Poker in NY Dead for another Year

Posted on by John Lathram

New YorkGary Pretlow has confirmed his bill to regulate online poker in New York will not be heard in the Assembly before the end of the legislative calendar.

Last week, we reported that the New York Senate had passed a bill to regulate online poker, but speculated there may not be enough time remaining in the legislative calendar for the companion bill to be heard in the Assembly. We also felt there was not enough support behind the bill for it to pass the Assembly due to its recently-added bad actor clause, tribal opposition, and lack of financial viability.

Subsequently, Gary Pretlow´s companion bill did pass a hearing of the Racing, Wagering and Gaming Committee last Friday, but – with two more committees to pass before it reached the Assembly floor – he has now admitted that time has run out to pass online poker legislation in 2017 – telling the New York Daily News we´ll pick it up next year more than likely.

So, What Went Wrong in 2017?

After unprecedented momentum and the passage of a similar bill through the Senate in 2016, proponents of regulated online poker in New York were confident this would be the year in which legislation passed – attributing Gary Pretlow´s involvement with legislation to regulate Daily Fantasy Sports last year as the reason why the online poker bill never got heard in the Assembly.

However, no such distractions existed this year – raising the question of whether the proposals to regulate online poker in New York have the support of the Assembly or not. The likely answer is not. In addition to the issues mentioned above, the state´s fledgling brick-and-mortar casino industry is failing to deliver anything like the revenue it was expected to – fuelling fears that online poker may damage the industry further through cannibalization.

There is also an ongoing court case against the regulation of Daily Fantasy Sports. Opponents to the legislation claim the state has no authority to reclassify DFS as a game of skill to circumnavigate the state constitution. As the proposals to regulate online poker in New York also use the “game of skill” factor to circumnavigate the constitutional ban on unlicensed gambling, members of the Assembly may be more comfortable with tackling online poker once the outcome of the DFS case is known.

One Down, Two to Go

Despite the disappointment in New York, proponents of regulated online poker still have high hopes of legislation passing in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania is the more likely of the two states to fulfil their hopes as online gambling bills have been passed this year in the Senate and the House. Unfortunately the two bills are miles apart in their content, and lawmakers only have ten days of their legislative calendar remaining to sort out their differences.

The situation in Illinois is similar to that in Pennsylvania inasmuch as both states need to generate tax revenues in order to resolve budget crises. However the situation is much more serious in the Prairie State, which is set to become the first US state to default on its financial obligations since Arkansas in 1933. Consequently, you would think, lawmakers would enthusiastically grasp any opportunity to generate tax revenues, including an expansion of gambling. Apparently not.

Although Illinois has already regulated Video Gaming Terminals, and a bill to regulate online gambling and DFS has passed the Senate, the House has not been so quick to act – preferring instead to temporarily fix the crisis by raising personal taxes and expanding sales tax levies. Officially the legislative calendar has closed for the year in Illinois, but there is an outside chance online gambling/DFS legislation will be included in the final budget balancing act, provided lawmakers finish juggling the figures by June 30.

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