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New York Online Poker Bill Springs to Life, Passes First Committee Vote

The legalization of online poker in the state of New York seems to be back on the agenda, as members of the Senate Racing, Gaming, and Wagering Committee passed overwhelmingly a bill on the matter earlier this week.

The piece of legislation was the now well-known S3898, which was originally introduced in the New York State Legislature last January by Sen. John Bonacic. During the 2017 portion of the legislative session, the bill passed the Senate and was referred to the Assembly, where it died. This means that the piece will now have to receive an approval from the Senate before being sent to the lower chamber of the state Legislature for a vote.

The bill gained quite some momentum last year, so it is believed that a successful passage in the Senate would not be such a difficult task to accomplish. In other words, it seems that the success of S38989 and the future of regulated online poker in the state is highly dependent on the Assembly.

The lower chamber of the New York Legislature presented its own online poker bill last year. However, it did not progress as much as its Senate counterpart. Assemblyman Gary Pretlow, Chairman of the Assembly’s Racing, Gaming, and Wagering Committee, led the Assembly’s poker push last year. In fact, the lawmaker told media late in 2018 that he planned to renew his online poker legalization effort in February 2018.

Following its positive vote earlier this week, the Senate’s online poker bill was reported to the Finance Committee, which it will have to pass in order to be referred to the full Senate floor for a vote.

”Bad Actor” and Other Key Provisions

Generally speaking, S3898 designates online poker as a game of skill, and not one whose outcome is based on chance. This classification is particularly important, as the New York State Constitution prohibits any form of gambling expansion within the state’s borders, and any gambling expansion requires an amendment to the current laws.

If online poker is legalized, interested operators will be able to apply for licenses and provide Texas Hold’em and Omaha Hold’em games to New York players. There will be a total of eleven licenses for online poker operators to be issued by regulators.

Each and every successful license applicant will have to pay a one-off licensing fee of $10 million. The money will go to the state coffers. Online poker proponents in the Legislature also believe that the legalization and regulation of online poker will generate significant additional tax revenue. Under S3898A, licenses operators will be taxed at 15% on their revenue.

Last year, the Senate sneaked a “bad actor” provision to its bill in hopes to help it navigate through the Assembly successfully. The provision bans operators that had continued operating in the US in the post-UIGEA era from applying for licenses in New York. In other words, PokerStars would not be welcome in the state, if the bill gains the necessary support in the Legislature.

The Stars Group, parent company of the popular poker brand, has been a staunch supporter of New York’s legalization effort. However, the “bad actor” provision may thus cost the state a mighty player in the online poker field.

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