The Empire State now has two online poker bills on the table for consideration in 2017, one on the Assembly and one in the Senate.
The bills are identical however, according to the New York State Assembly website. The plan would classify poker as a game of skill and allow it to be played over the internet for real money within the state’s borders.
“The courts have not limited the legislature’s ability to determine that certain forms of poker should fall outside the general definition of gambling since those games are games of skill,” the bill says.
The legislation references Texas hold’em and Omaha and says that those two variants “are considered to be complex forms of poker which involve player strategy and decision-making and which pit the skill levels of the players against each other.”
Despite specific language on hold’em and Omaha, the bill would allow any other form of poker, whether for tournaments or cash games, that is the “material equivalent” of those variants.
Thanks to being games of skill, “these forms of poker do not fall under the definition of gambling as prohibited by the penal law.” However, the state has the “bedrock premise” that internet poker is a “privilege and not a right” and thus should be regulated. The bill says that online poker is currently “a major form of entertainment for many consumers.”
Unlike some other states, New York is only looking at peer-to-peer poker. Neighboring New Jersey allows a wide array of casino games over the internet, while neighboring Pennsylvania is inching closer to passing a bill to do the same as the Garden State.
Last year, New York State Senators approved a similar online poker proposal by a 53-5 vote, but the measure died in the Assembly. A bill needs to pass both chambers and get the governor’s signature. New York has already passed a bill to legalize daily fantasy sports, which is a form of online gaming considered to be skill-based. At one point last year, it was basically a toss up whether New York would go with DFS or online poker first.
State Senator John Bonacic, who backed the online poker bill last year and is doing so again this year, said that internet card playing can be more lucrative for the state than DFS.
New York is home to nearly 20 million people and has a year-one online poker market estimated to be worth $120 million. New Jersey’s internet poker market was $26.5 million in 2016. “All the potential casinos, all the nine racinos, have sent us letters of support for the online poker bill,” Bonacic said.
His comments came during the summer, and since then several brick-and-mortar casinos have opened in the Empire State. That’s also going to bode well for online poker efforts this year because some in the state have preferred waiting until the new casinos are in business.
Just a few years ago, the Empire State approved four Las Vegas-style casinos for upstate regions in order to boost struggling local economies. The state also determined that its residents spend about $1 billion a year at out-of-state casinos.