New York’s state political scene just lost a staunch supporter of online gambling rights, as state senator John Bonacic (R-42) has announced his retirement.

In a statement issued on April 27, Bonacic – a powerful Republican who serves as chairman of the Senate Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee – revealed that he would not seek to defend the senate seat he’s held since 2003:

“I have decided that I will not seek re-election to the New York State Senate.

Next to being called Pat’s husband and Melissa and Scott’s father and a grandfather to three more, serving in the State Senate has been the honor of my life.

The twenty years I have spent in the Senate have been rewarding both personally and professionally, despite the frustrations that all of us experience in any career.

Twenty years, though, is enough, and I look forward to spending quality time with my bride, Pat, and my children and grandchildren.”

Prior to representing New York’s 42nd district – which covers parts of Delaware, Sullivan, Orange, and Ulster counties – in the state Senate, Bonacic served a pair of two-year terms as state senator for the 40th district. Bonacic also served in the New York state Assembly for six years between 1993 and 1998.

During his tenure, Bonacic has emerged as the Empire State’s most vocal legislative supporter for online poker legalization.

Last year, Bonacic sponsored Senate Bill 3898, which would create a regulatory framework for legalizing online poker across New York. Despite being passed by the full Senate in a convincing 53-9 vote – marking the second time in consecutive years that Bonacic had shepherded his online poker package through the Senate – SB-3898 was left to languish by Bonacic’s colleagues in the Assembly.

He’s made another attempt in 2018, with SB-3898 revived in identical form and already pushed through his gaming committee. Currently, the online poker bill sits with the Senate Finance Committee, where it remains under consideration.

Back in January, ahead of the committee vote, Bonacic told lawmakers why New York needed online poker – and why the Assembly should back up the Senate in supporting SB-3898:

“There are many media reports that the [commercial] casinos aren’t meeting their revenue expectations.

This would be another tool in their toolbox to enhance revenues, if we allowed them to do it. This will be the third time that the Senate has passed this bill, and I know Assemblyman [Gary] Pretlow, who chairs the Racing and Wagering [Committee] in the Assembly, is supportive of the bill.

I know he will continue to use his best efforts to move it in the Assembly.”

Bonacic’s decision to retire was made public just three days after a special election on April 24 tilted heavily toward Democratic candidates for the Legislature.

Following the special election, two other Republican representatives announced their retirement, as state senator Kathy Marchione (R-43) and state senator John DeFrancisco decided against running for reelection.

Jonathan Zaun

One of Gamble Online's first dedicated reporters, Jonathan has spent well over a decade reporting on the gaming industry. While breaking legal news is his main area of expertise, Jonathan is an avid blackjack player & strategist who follows professional poker closely.

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