New York’s Online Poker Bill Killed Off Days After Successful Senate Vote

Advocates for the legalization of online poker saw their hand improve in New York over the last week, only to suffer a proverbial “bad beat” at the hands of state lawmakers.

Senate Bill S5302 – which would legalize and regulate online poker within New York – was passed by an overwhelming 53-5 margin by the state Senate on June 14.

Less than a week later, however, the state’s Assembly declined to hold any vote on SB-5302 as the legislative session came to a close – effectively shelving the bill until next year at the earliest.

In foregoing any vote on SB-5302, the New York Assembly put a sudden halt to a month’s worth of positive momentum.

Originally put forth by chief sponsor Senator John J. Bonacic in May 2015, SB-5302 sat in legislative limbo until February of this year, when the Senate Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee voted in favor of passage by a 9-0 margin. On June 2, the Senate Finance Committee moved the bill along courtesy of a 20-8 vote.

The full Senate’s 53-5 vote occurred less than two weeks later, and the rapid pace of recent progress prompted many poker industry insiders to express cautious optimism. However, despite a growing belief that New York could soon become the fourth state to legalize online poker – joining Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware – the Assembly quickly made their opposition known.

Generally skewing more toward the conservative end of the political spectrum, members of New York’s State Assembly have historically shied away from supporting online poker. The more liberal Senate, on the other hand, has remained willing to explore all options concerning the contentious debate on legalizing gambling via the internet.

Oddly enough, the Assembly did find time to pass a pending bill to authorize daily fantasy sports (DFS) for legal play throughout New York. The DFS concept, much like online poker during the last decade, has shown explosive growth in recent years, prompting many jurisdictions to call for bans on the quasi-gambling enterprise.

New York was one such state, after New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman issued cease and desist orders to DFS industry titans DraftKings and FanDuel last November. Following the state legislature’s passage of the DFS bill, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has 10 days to decide between signing it into law or utilizing his veto power.

For proponents of online poker, New York’s decision to pass on one gambling-based industry while embracing another is surely bittersweet, but there are reasons to remain encouraged. Considering the renewed level of support shown for SB-5302 during the last month, it appears as though the state Senate has made up its collective mind. All that remains now is the delicate process of negotiating with members of the Assembly, and amending the bill to reflect the concerns raised by various legislators.

The Assembly just showed its willingness to authorize skill-based gambling games played over the internet by passing the DFS bill, so supporters of online poker can only look to follow that template during the next legislative session.