First of all, a change in laws means the bill starts further down the pipeline than previous years. Additionally, with budget woes and sports betting momentum, factors beyond the standard online poker argument we hear each year.
Poker bill back to the Senate
So, the new law in New York stipulates that bills that do not pass during the first year of a two-year legislative session do not die at the end of the first year. With that in mind, the assumption was the Senate online poker bill would pick up in the Assembly. Last year it sailed through the Senate before moving over to the Assembly, where it made no progress.
Turns out the bill will backtrack a bit. Moreover, there are two bills involving online poker in Albany.
The Senate bill, S3898, goes back to the Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee. While this is a step back, it is nothing to be too alarmed about. Each year, with the help of state Sen. John Bonacik, the bill sails through the Senate by an overwhelming margin.
This time around, the only real cause for concern is that Bonacic, who co-sponsors the bill, is also trying to move ahead with sports betting in the Empire State as well.
Assembly bill back to committee
The Senate version of the online poker legislaiton is out of the Assembly for now. However, the Assembly’s version of the bill is still live in committee. That bill, A5250, begins the year in the Codes Committee.
Last year, Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow said he hoped to rally enough support in the Assembly for online poker around February. However, with the movement of the bills, that could affect the timeline.
Additionally, Pretlow is waffling on his online poker support. Late last year, he suggested he might not be as gung ho about gambling expansion as he was in the spring. Pretlow started supporting online poker last year, which supporters considered to be a major victory for the cause. Now he is worried that the poor performance of land-based casinos upstate means more gambling in New York could be a bad idea.
Budget woes could be an opportunity for poker
Given the budgetary woes New York is facing, Pretlow may not have the luxury of finding the right time to expand gambling. During his recent State of the State Address, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state faced a $4 billion budget deficit.
In that same address, Cuomo vowed to cut spending. But in a hole that big, cutting the budget may not do enough to solve the problem. Just ask Pennsylvania. The budget crisis in the Keystone State is what led to the passage of an expansive gambling bill last October. There won’t be any data of consequence from Pennsylvania’s new gaming endeavors this year.
However, Rhode Island is already taking a page from Pennsylvania and considering other revenue streams. There is no reason Bonacic and other online poker and sports betting supporters will not take advantage of the opportunity and press the issue.