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New York Set To Take Another Shot At Passing Online Poker Bill

Online Poker Bill To Be Introduced Wednesday For Sixth Consecutive Year

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After enduring several failed attempts at passing legislation to bring licensed and regulated online poker to the Empire State, Sen. Joseph Addabbo has introduced a bill that would legalize poker on the virtual felt for New York state residents in 2019.

The bill, SB 18, would allow the state to grant up to 11 licenses for land-based gaming operators to open online poker rooms. Those licenses would cost operators a one-time fee of $10 million, but those costs would also be applied towards the first 60 months of their tax obligations. Under the proposed bill, those taxes would be set at 15 percent of the total gaming revenue.

The licenses would only allow operators to operate online poker rooms. Sports betting or any other casino games would not be included in Addabbo’s proposed legislation. Both commercial and tribal gaming operators would be eligible for these licenses and prospective players on these sites must be both within New York’s borders and over 21 years old.

This marks the sixth consecutive year that the New York State legislature has proposed an online poker bill. Last year’s bill passed the state’s senate but failed to garner enough support in the assembly to get put in front of Governor Andrew Cuomo.

The main difference between this year’s bill and the efforts of last year’s legislation is the inclusion of a ‘bad actor’ clause. This may be an obstacle for some of the more prominent off-shore sites like PokerStars, which took bets from U.S. players after the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA).

While Cuomo isn’t one of poker’s most ardent supporters, the bigger hurdle is clearing the state assembly. Assemblyman Gary Pretlow, chairman of the Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee, has been in favor of passing bills for both poker and other gaming ventures, but has been vocal about his preference for sports betting.

Since this bill only includes poker, it’s unlikely to get Pretlow’s full backing. Addabbo has already begun the process to introduce sports betting legislation later this year, which may sway Pretlow to hold off on his full support of the online poker bill until sports betting is included or passed on its own.

One more ominous sign for the bill’s future is the departure of Sen. John Bonacic, who retired at the end of his term in 2018. Bonacic spearheaded most of the state’s major efforts to pass online poker legislation in prior years.

The bill will be formally introduced to the State Senate on Jan. 9.