New York Online Poker Bill Gaining Support from Lawmakers

Posted on by Tim Hernandez

New YorkNew York Assemblyman Clyde Vanel said earlier this month that he was hoping to get 60 to 70 of his colleagues to co-sponsor A 5250, an online poker bill that classifies poker as a game of skill. Vanel is getting closer to his goal, as 45 of his fellow lawmakers have signed on in support of the measure.

What that means for poker players in the Empire State is that the bill is gaining traction, putting New York firmly in the lead as the next state to join Nevada, New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania in approving online poker legislation. However, though the odds have certainly improved for New Yorkers, there remains some skepticism – even from the bill’s primary sponsor, Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow.

It’s growing, but not fast enough, Pretlow told OPR with regard to Assembly support. We will get to 60, but my goal is 76. At 76, that means there’s a majority of Democrats in favor.

Poker Bills Sail Through Senate

Online poker regulation has already found favor in the New York State Senate where Sen. John Bonacic has led the charge. Three years in a row – including earlier this year – of successful passage of i-poker legislation has kept the issue alive, only to reach an impasse without so much as a vote taken in the Assembly.

But Vanel appears determined to change that in 2018, taking the lead in gathering support for online poker in his role as chairman of the Subcommittee on Internet and New Technology. He has until June to convince more Assembly members to sign on, with a vote on the measure likely to take place that month – if the required support falls in place.

Vanel’s attempt to include online poker regulation in the state budget at the end of March fell short. But the Democratic Assemblyman was not deterred, persuading more than two dozen Assembly members to back the measure over the last few weeks.

Game of Skill

The bill, authored by Pretlow under his position as chairman of the Assembly Racing and Wagering Committee, calls for the New York State Gaming Commission to license certain entities to offer for play to the public certain variants of internet poker which require a significant degree of skill, specifically ‘Omaha Hold’em’ and ‘Texas Hold’em.’

The bill also mentions the fact that many New York citizens are known to log on and play at unregulated poker sites that cater to the US market. While A 5250 is a way to increase revenue for Empire State coffers, the measure was also presented to protect consumers from the hazards of unregulated poker rooms, as well as providing ways to prevent compulsive gambling and to keep minors from gaining access.

There is an outside chance that online poker legislation can be combined with a bill to legalize sports betting, but the latter still depends on a favorable ruling from the US Supreme Court. Pretlow is not in favor of packaging the two together, calling such an occurrence a “last resort.”

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