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Déjà Vu: The New York Senate OKs Online Poker

Empire State Assembly Will Now Consider Plan

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Will 2017 be another tease or can the Empire State finally pull the trigger on internet poker?

On Tuesday, the New York Senate once again approved a plan for state-sanctioned poker sites, sending the measure to the Assembly for consideration. Senate lawmakers passed a similar measure last year, but it never moved in the Assembly.

The vote this week was 54-8, while the vote last year was 53-5.

“This bill serves two main purposes in allowing New Yorkers access to regulated online poker while providing critical consumer protections and increasing revenues to the state for education and taxes via operator licenses,” said Senator John Bonacic, sponsor of the bill.

“I will continue to work with my colleagues in the Assembly to see that this bill passes both houses before the end of session.”

The proposed tax rate in the measure is 15 percent.

Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow, Chairman of the Committee on Racing and Wagering, made some optimistic comments back in February when he said that the state’s commercial casinos are on board with the web poker business.

“I don’t really see that there’s going to be much opposition to moving this along,” he said of internet poker at the time, indicating his support for the plan.

There are currently a little over 100 poker tables in the state spread between the tribal and commercial casinos. Online poker authorization would be great for live poker in New York. The state’s three commercial poker rooms raked $860,000 last month.

While New York has been dragging its feet on the issue, it’s not quite as frustrating as the situation in Pennsylvania. Lawmakers there have met more than 80 times in two years to discuss gambling expansion. However, Pennsylvania could soon be crossing the finish line as the Senate and House have both approved versions of a measure that would allow internet casino gambling.

How big could the online poker markets be in New York and Pennsylvania? Through the first four months of this year, New Jersey’s regulated web poker market was $8.7 million. However, the Garden State has far fewer people than New York and Pennsylvania, and if they combined online poker player pools (which is allowed under the bills) it would be a big win for all three.

Earlier this month, Illinois emerged from the shadows with a real chance to legalize online poker this year. The Senate passed a web poker bill by a 42-10 vote, moving it to the House for consideration sometime in the coming weeks.

Given that New York, Pennsylvania and Illinois have all seen at least one respective legislative body approve online poker this year, it would be a ridiculous disappointment if none cross the finish line before 2018. No state has legalized the games since New Jersey did so in 2013.