Key Lawmaker Shifts Position to Pave Way for Online Poker in New York

When state senators in New York passed an online poker bill by a 53-5 margin last June, full passage of the legalization effort appeared to be a done deal.

But at that time, Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow dampened enthusiasm considerably, expressing “pessimism” about the subject of regulating a statewide online poker industry. Soon enough, Pretlow was calling the bill “dead in his chamber,” and his prediction proved prescient, as the online poker package was left to languish in the Assembly.

It’s a new year, however, and with a new legislative session underway, Pretlow is making headlines once again – this time as a vocal supporter of online poker.

In an interview published by local news outlet FiOS1news.com on February 25, Pretlow outlined his revised stance on the subject:

“I had some issues with [online poker] in the past. If New Yorkers are going to participate in online poker, I want it to be the fairest it could possibly be.

I took a field trip, down to New Jersey, and I went to Atlantic City to meet with the Attorney General. We went over their geolocating apparatus … and I’m satisfied that geolocating works. I’m pretty satisfied that cheating isn’t going to take place.”

Pretlow detailed a specific concern of his, one shared by many lawmakers unfamiliar with modern geolocation technology, that players outside of New York could gain access to the state’s online poker rooms. But as he explained, that field trip to New Jersey provided clear proof that such services “cut right out” when a player leaves the state’s jurisdictional boundaries.

As the Chairman of the Committee on Racing and Wagering, and a 25-year veteran of the Assembly, Pretlow’s appraisal of any gambling legislation is well-respected among his peers. For this reason, combined with the Senate’s nearly unanimous support in June, iGaming industry experts have heralded Pretlow’s reconsideration as a potential game-changer.

Currently, a pair of identical bills are being considered by the state’s Senate and Assembly, with Pretlow himself serving as the sponsor for A-5250. The bills are carbon copies of last year’s effort, which received overwhelming support in the Senate before stalling in the Assembly.

Under the proposed legislation, players 21 and older who are physically located within the state of New York would be permitted to risk real money in online poker games. Poker itself would henceforth be defined as a “game of skill” under state law, and potential player sharing compacts with other states would be authorized.

Up to 11 operator’s licenses would be issued to various brick and mortar casino establishments throughout New York, at a cost of $10 million per. These licensees would then partner with iGaming servicers like PokerStars, PartyPoker, and 888 Poker to launch affiliated online poker rooms.

The resulting gross gaming revenue would be taxed at a rate of 15 percent.

Pretlow was careful to couch his optimistic outlook by observing that “there are some individuals within the administration that are really opposed to this,” a reference to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s government.

Even so, Pretlow expressed confidence that his role as a senior leader within the Assembly would hold sufficient sway to ensure eventual passage:

“When I do sign off on something, my colleagues feel that it is a good deal and they don’t question why I made a certain decision. They know that if that decision was made, it’s for good reason. So, I don’t really see that there’s going to be much opposition to moving this along.”