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Online Poker Is In NY Senate Budget, But Can It Make The Final Cut?

The optimism New York will pass online poker legislation this year continues to grow thanks to news the state Senate budget includes tax revenues from online gambling expansion. The Senate approved the budget this week, and the next step is for the state Assembly to include it in its budget proposal. The state legislature has until March 31st to agree on a finalized budget.

Support of Gary Pretlow sets online poker efforts apart from 2016

This is not the first time the budget includes online poker regulation in New York. Last year, the Senate included online poker in the budget as well. The Senate also passed an online poker bill with ease in 2016 only for it to be held up in the Assembly.

What sets 2017 apart from last year is the support of Assemblymember Gary Pretlow. He was a major roadblock for online gambling in 2016, but has since changed his tune on the subject.

In a recent interview, Pretlow walked back some of his comments and concerns about online poker. He met with New Jersey online casino regulators to learn more about how the state keeps sites safe and came away with a new appreciation for iGaming.

Pretlow is actually the sponsor of the Assembly’s online poker bill, A5250. The bill is essentially a carbon copy of the Senate measure introduced by Sen. Jon Bonacic, S3898.

Governor and Assembly budgets do not include New York online poker

There may be more momentum for online poker in New York, but there are still several obstacles in its way. So far the Senate is the only group to include numbers from online poker in its budget. Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposed budget has no such language, nor does the Assembly’s.

With two weeks to finalize next year’s budget, there may not be enough time to reach an agreement on online poker. It could provide a healthy boost to New York coffers if passed though. The bills stipulate an upfront licensing fee of $10 million for each online poker site.

Pretlow’s support in the Assembly will be huge in possibly getting iPoker numbers in the Assembly’s final budget. Gov. Cuomo could be more difficult to persuade.

Cuomo’s office is sheepish on bringing online poker to the Empire State. Cuomo does not want to do anything to jeopardize the economic welfare of the new casinos which recently opened upstate as part of a 2013 gambling expansion measure he signed.

So far those casinos are faring well. It is too early to say with certainty, but projections suggest the properties are on pace to meet earnings expectations.

Cuomo’s office did not say it outright opposes online poker. A spokesperson did say any further expansion, online or otherwise, would need to considered carefully.

Online poker in New York should help, not hurt existing casinos

Cuomo’s office is one of several political groups to express unfounded concern online gambling cannibalizes existing casinos. Similar concerns came up in a recent Pennsylvania online casino hearing, but the evidence does not back up the assumptions.

Testimony from existing online casino operators, Caesars Entertainment and Golden Nugget, both emphasized online gambling expansion brought new customer to brick and mortar properties and reinvigorated some lapsed customers.

Governor Cuomo’s office may not be aware of the evidence presented in this testimony. It is not too late to let him know how online poker and casinos can help New York’s brick and mortar properties. You can make your voice heard in just a matter of a few clicks.

Jessica Welman

About

Jessica Welman is a longtime member of the poker media. She has worked as a tournament reporter for the World Poker Tour, co-hosted a podcast for Poker Road, and served as the Managing Editor for WSOP.com. A graduate of the University of Southern California and Indiana University, Welman is not only a writer but also a producer. She has been involved for livestreams for the WSOP and WPT and worked as a consultant on many other poker productions. She can be found on Twitter @jesswelman.