Assemb. Pretlow Introduces Bill To Legalize NY Online Poker But Not Online Casinos

Written By Grant Lucas on January 18, 2023

Once again, a bill to legalize online poker in New York has emerged in the state legislature. As a result, if all goes to the plan of bill supporter Assemb. Gary Pretlow, it could beat online casinos to the Empire State.

This week, Pretlow introduced bill A01380, which would reclassifies NY online poker as a game of skill rather than luck. From the proposal:

Allows certain interactive poker games be considered games of skill rather than games of luck; includes definitions, authorization, required safeguards and minimum standards, the scope of licensing review and state tax implications; makes corresponding penal law amendments.

After first reading, the bill was referred to the Committee on Racing and Wagering. While we previously saw the vertical \tied to online casino legalization in the past, this proposal does not include NY online casinos.

Bill: Legalize NY online poker by amending state law

According to bill A01380, the proposal calls for an amendment to the state’s racing, pari-mutuel wagering and breeding law. Should the bill pass, legislators would add a section to the law that redefines game of skill versus game of chance.

New York law considers “gambling” as an individual who risks something of value on the outcome of a contest of chance — wherein the person has no control or influence — and looks for something of value in return should the outcome result in their favor. A contest of chance, as defined in the Empire State, includes any event in which the outcome “depends in a material degree upon an element of chance.” While some of these games may call for even a little bit of skill, the law concedes, such skill does not influence or determine the outcomes of these games.

However, this bill notes that any contest that pits the skill levels of players against each other is considered a game of skill, as ruled by New York courts. As the proposal points out: “Poker in many instances has been defined as a game of skill and a New York federal court in US v. DiCristina … assessed that under federal law poker was predominantly a game of skill.” From the proposed bill:

“The legislature further finds that as the internet has become an integral part of society, and internet poker a major form of entertainment for many consumers, any interactive gaming enforcement and regulatory structure must begin from the bedrock premise that participation in a lawful and licensed gaming industry is a privilege and not a right, and that regulatory oversight is intended to safeguard the integrity of the games and participants and to ensure accountability and the public trust.”

Could online poker bill pass?

New York has been down this road before.

Over the past few years, various bills emerged to legalize online poker in New York. All to no avail. Yet that has never deterred Pretlow, more often than not the spearhead of each attempt.

As efforts to legalize continued to fall by the wayside, New York still continued to expand legal gambling. Upstate commercial casinos. Downstate commercial casinos. Online sports betting. In 2018, Pretlow said he would “give up” online poker in order to legalize NY sports betting. That remained his priority. Now that online sports betting in New York is alive — and very well — Pretlow has returned to online poker.

Almost a year ago to the day, Pretlow told PlayNY that NY online poker is “in the mix” for potential legalization. The focus at the time was to approve downstate casino expansion (which we got last summer). “And behind that,” Pretlow said, “would come online poker because it’s associated with the casinos and it’s all part of the package that we’re working on.”

Photo by Shutterstock / PlayNY
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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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