Addabbo Pushes Online Poker Bill To Gauge Interest In NY Gambling Expansion

Written By Grant Lucas on May 30, 2024
Image of Sen. Joseph Addabbo, who introduced a New York online poker bill to gauge interest in the vertical.

Some 10 years ago, as the New York legislative session began to wind down, Asm. Gary Pretlow introduced a bill to legalize online poker in the Empire State.

It never made it out of committee back then. Every effort since, from either the Assembly or Senate, has met similar fates. But that decade-old bill from Pretlow was the starting point for Sen. Joseph Addabbo in 2024.

A few weeks ago, Addabbo – on the heels of seeing his latest push to legalize online casinos in New York – introduced legislation that would specifically legalize NY online poker.

This late in the legislative session, it’s likely improbable for the proposal to pass. But Addabbo used that bill as another starting point.

“I introduced the bill to basically … update the bill, languagewise, to more specifically say iPoker, limiting it to those who only do poker currently, which are licensed casinos,” Addabbo told PlayNY.

“It was to see if there was any appetite in it. … It was updated to make it more accurate and to see if there was any interest. Maybe next year.”

How and why NY online poker bill came to existence

Optimism abounded for Addabbo heading into 2024. He believed this was the year that lawmakers finally legalized online casinos in New York after seeing neighboring states like New Jersey and Pennsylvania prosper from iGaming. Not to mention the chance to cut into the illegal sites operating in the Empire State. Addabbo also emphasized that legal online casinos in NY would help the state recognize and help those who suffer from problem gambling.

Ultimately, though, Addabbo’s bill was left out of the state budget.

As usual, that hasn’t stifled Addabbo from attempting to move forward. And that next first step was with S9226, which would legalize online poker only in New York.

“When we saw that iGaming was not going forward because certain people in the industry, I guess, had questions or concerns – which I still think could be overcome – there was an iPoker bill that was sort of outdated,” Addabbo told PlayNY on the heels of his introduction of the poker bill. “The actual language, I think, said online gaming. I didn’t want it to be confused with what we’re trying to push, which is online gaming with casino games.”

That particular bill, Addabbo said, had been “around for years” since Pretlow first introduced it. But, the senator added, the industry and the game of poker has evolved greatly since that time. In fact, Addabbo said: “That poker bill might have been slightly ahead of its time.”

Online poker bill a way to gauge interest in NY gambling expansion

While late in the legislative session, the online poker bill was met with some support from Addabbo’s constituents, the senator pointed out. “About time” was the phrase Addabbo relayed.

In fact, he added, support for this proposal was “more so, really, than the iGaming” bill.

“People are interested,” Addabbo said, “because it is a growing game.”

Certainly, though, there is a bigger fish to potentially land. As Addabbo noted, this NY online poker bill has a second purpose: to gauge the appetite for legal online gambling in New York.

“You look to build upon mobile sports betting and its success,” Addabbo said, “and you look for opportunities where New York is lagging behind, where New York is losing money to other states.”

It would be understandable, you could argue, for one to become frustrated if a bill to legalize online poker (which generates far less revenue than online casinos) passes before legislation to authorize iGaming. Not for Addabbo, however.

“I wouldn’t be frustrated at all,” Addabbo told PlayNY.

“It would be some type of advancement in an area where the state is losing money to other states. I’d be encouraged by it, really.”

Photo by Mike Groll / AP Photo
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Grant Lucas

Grant Lucas is the managing editor for PlayNY. A longtime, award-winning sports writer, Grant has covered gambling and legal sports betting since 2018, when he got his start reporting on the New Jersey and Pennsylvania industries. He now oversees PlayNY as New York expands legalized gambling to sports betting and online casino gaming.

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