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Jonathan ZaunMarch 16, 2018

New York’s Online Sports Betting Bill Clears Committee Vote; Online Poker Attached to Proposed Budget for Third Straight Year

Less than one week after introducing a bill to regulate sports betting, New York state senator John Bonacic (R-42) successfully steered his latest gambling expansion proposal through the committee he chairs.

Bonacic’s position as chairman of the Senate Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee made the preliminary passage of Senate Bill 7900 a formality of sorts, so no votes were tallied. Instead, the bill – which would allow the Empire State to establish legal sports betting via both land-based and online sportsbooks – was moved on to the Senate Finance Committee without delay.

SB-7900 was introduced on March 7 and forwarded to the Finance Committee on March 13.

In a statement issued by his office, Bonacic referenced the looming U.S. Supreme Court decision which is widely expected to strike down the current federal prohibition on sports betting:

“With today’s passage of S.7900 out of the Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee, legalized sports betting is one step closer to becoming a reality in New York State.

I thank my colleagues on the Committee for their support of this bill, and look forward to working with them and the many stakeholders, during the remainder of the legislative session to ensure that New York has the best piece of legislation possible should the Supreme Court strike down PASPA.”

In December, the Court heard oral arguments in the case of Christie v. NCAA et al, which concerns the efforts of Governor Chris Christie to legalize sports betting in New Jersey. The Garden State approved sports betting measures, both legislatively and on the ballot, with Christie signing versions into law in 2012 and 2014. Each signing prompted a slate of lawsuits from North America’s four major professional sports leagues (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL), along with the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

The leagues contended that New Jersey’s efforts to regulate sports betting constituted a violation of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992 – the federal law which limits legal sports wagering to four states (Nevada, Oregon, Montana, and Delaware).

As his statement alluded to, Bonacic’s bill is contingent on a Court ruling – which is scheduled to be rendered within the next few months – striking down PASPA’s control over state-regulated sports betting:

“No gaming facility may conduct sports wagering until such time as there has been a change in federal law authorizing such or upon a ruling of a court of competent jurisdiction that such activity is lawful.”

With most legal observers and gambling industry experts in agreeance that the Court was amenable to New Jersey’s case during oral arguments, more than a dozen states have introduced bills based on the potential PASPA repeal.

California, Illinois, Iowa, and West Virginia are among the 16 states currently considering similar legislation.

Based on his plan for an 8.5 percent tax on sports wagering related revenue, Bonacic positioned the legalization of sports betting as an effective way to solidify the state’s budget:

“If allowed, sports betting will be a revenue enhancer for education in New York,” said Bonacic, who is also spearheading the online poker efforts. “We have the chance to ensure our sports betting statute is fully developed and addresses the needs of the state and all stakeholders so we can hit the ground running if and when we can authorize and regulate sports betting.”

In other iGaming news out of New York, the Senate once again included online poker in its annual budget proposal.

Buried within the massive document, which serves as a baseline for lawmakers to base their discussions with the executive branch, is a passage calling for online poker to be regulated.

The same language has been included in the Senate budget proposal for three straight years, and while that legislative body has successfully passed online poker bills in 2016 and 2017, the Assembly has refused to hold a vote.

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