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Powerful NY Lawmaker Pens Letter to Colleagues Calling for Online Poker Vote

With less than one month before yet another legislative deadline comes and goes, New York’s top legislative gatekeeper on gaming issues is finally getting serious about legalizing online poker.

Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow (D-89) – who serves as chairman of the New York Assembly’s Committee on Racing and Wagering – sent a letter to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-83) urging him to hold a floor vote on a pending online poker bill.

Assembly Bill 5250 was introduced last year as a followup to an online poker regulation bill passed in the Senate. The Senate has passed online poker legislation twice in the last two years, but the Assembly has declined to hold a full floor vote – letting the bill languish in the process.

Pretlow himself has proven to be the sticking point, as the powerful longtime Assemblyman previously expressed reservations over online poker’s safety and security. But after visiting New Jersey to study the successful iGaming industry operated by New York’s neighbor, Pretlow shepherded AB-5250 through his Gaming committee during the last legislative session.

This year, with online poker once again passed through the full Senate and awaiting action in the Assembly, Pretlow wrote Heastie to seek a full floor vote:

“In response to the exclusion of legislation authorizing and regulating interactive gaming in the SFY 2018-19 enacted budget, I along with a number of my colleagues request your assistance in the facilitation of bill A.5250 to the floor for vote consideration at your earliest convenience.”

The number of colleagues Pretlow enlisted stands at 51, as he obtained signatures from more than four dozen fellow Democrats who support AB-5250.

In his letter, Pretlow outlined several economic incentives offered by online poker regulation:

“With guaranteed instant state revenue of up to $110 million and taxed revenue that would be designated to the State Lottery Fund for education, this will mildly relieve the budget constraints that we’re currently facing.

The Senate included language authorizing online interactive gaming in their one-house and with your leadership the state can be provided with an additional source of revenue to aid New York’s progressive initiatives.”

The appeal comes with curious timing, as it was less than one month ago that Pretlow laid the blame for online poker’s sluggish progress squarely at Heastie’s feet:

“He’s not in favor of gambling.

It’s obvious there are a lot of people in the Assembly not in favor of gambling of any sort. I try to explain to them that this is an expansion of existing gambling, but it’s hard to do when minds are closed.”

State initiatives to legalize online poker and other forms of iGaming are expected to increase, following a landmark decision by the U.S. Supreme Court which repealed the federal ban on sports betting. With individual states now free to pass legislation regulating sports betting, Pennsylvania and Michigan have passed and introduced, respectively, concurrent poker and sports bills.

But as Pretlow told Online Poker Report in a recent interview, the decriminalization of sports betting won’t be connected to New York’s ongoing online poker debate:

“I’m not going to attach online poker to it. Every bill I do should stand on its own merit.

I’m not trying to sneak something else in that people are opposed to.”

Even so, Pretlow pledged to use the sports betting ruling as a way of showing fellow lawmakers that all forms of gaming deserve recognition:

“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.”