In the span of just seven months online poker legalization has gone from legislative priority to mere afterthought, while a New York sports betting bill could now take priority.
Back in May, New York Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow (D-89) – chairman of the Assembly Committee on Racing and Wagering – was busy gathering 51 of his colleagues to sign a letter calling for a vote on his online poker bill. That marked Pretlow’s third consecutive year lobbying for online poker passage, but he’s speaking a different tune on the subject nowadays.
In comments made to Online Poker Report last week, Pretlow revealed his willingness to scuttle online poker plans in favor of shepherding a New York sports betting bill to the finish line:
“I would give up online poker for sports betting. If I had to make a choice, I would choose this over online poker just because the revenue stream is so much better doing this than online poker.”
Pretlow’s previous efforts to press fellow lawmakers for a floor vote occurred in May, the same month the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to repeal the federal ban on sportsbooks outside of Nevada.
That ruling paved the way for states to craft their own sports betting regulations, a prospect which Pretlow appeared to embrace at the time in his public comments:
“This will be helpful to getting online poker done. There are more people interested in pursuing sports betting than pursuing online poker.
For whatever reason, people consider online poker to be gambling but don’t consider sports betting to be gambling.
I’m going to show them this is all gaming, and all forms of gaming happening are related.”
When neighboring New Jersey launched its legal sports betting industry in June, supplementing the Garden State’s existing online poker and casino offerings, Pretlow and other stakeholders in New York were given a template to study.
And based on his observations of the nascent sportsbook scene in New Jersey – which includes both brick and mortar venues in casinos and racetracks, along with online / mobile betting apps – Pretlow sees sports betting as the clear winner.
As he told Online Poker Report, Pretlow simply can’t justify pursuing poker when the vertical is likely to generate significantly less annual revenue for the state:
“Online poker, I think the revenue for the state is projected at $20-25 million, while this is $150 million minimum.
I have a much better argument for sports betting.”
Indeed, according to the October revenue report published by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (NJDGE), sports betting accounted for a $11.6 million win to just $1.6 million in poker rake.
While the New York Senate has successfully passed online poker legislation in 2016 and 2017, Pretlow and his fellow Assembly members haven’t been able to seal the deal in their own chamber.
That divide doesn’t appear to be solvable anytime soon, but both the Senate and Assembly have already granted their assent for New York sports betting.
In 2013 – as part of a gambling expansion package approving four brick and mortar casino resorts – both chambers approved language allowing those venues to operate onsite sportsbooks provided federal law was amended or repealed.
That constitutional amendment was signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo, and the casinos have since been built, but Pretlow and his fellow legislators are still tasked with finalizing regulatory red tape such as licensing fees and tax rates.
Based on his comments to Online Poker Report, it would seem Pretlow has moved an eventual New York sports betting bill to the front of the line, with online poker taking a back seat:
“I’m still going to introduce an online poker bill, but I have to prioritize things and do one at a time. I’m not going to tie them together.”