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Why Pretlow Might Be Souring On Gambling Expansion In NY

pile of lemons
Certainly the poker community in New York never thought Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow was a strong ally for the cause. However, this year it seemed like the key lawmaker was moving to online poker’s side.

Lately some comments from Pretlow suggest his love affair with online poker and the New York casino industry in general might be waning though.

Pretlow spent much of 2017 lobbying for online poker

Online poker is not going to happen in 2017. The good news is a new law means the effort to legalize online poker will pick right back up where it left off in New York next year.

This past year, the bill once again breezed through the state Senate only to get stuck in the Assembly. Pretlow chairs the Racing and Wagering committee, so his support is basically required in order to get the bill to pass.

In past years, Pretlow opposed the idea of online poker, but this year he came around to support it. Pretlow visited with New Jersey regulators, and left believing in the online gambling system’s safety and management. He did not manage to get enough support from fellow Assemblymembers though, so the poker bill never got out of committee for a vote.

Is Pretlow starting to falter in his support?

With his support this year, most assumed Pretlow would continue the fight. Especially when you consider that neighboring state, Pennsylvania, just passed a law allowing both online casinos and online poker.

According to a recent report from Gambling Compliance (paywall) though, Pretlow does not see what that has to do with the Empire State. In Pretlow’s words:

“I would think Pennsylvania will have the same effect as New Jersey did: None.”

This is an interesting statement from Pretlow for a couple of reasons. First, as mentioned earlier, Pretlow said a large part of the reason he came around on online poker was seeing New Jersey in action.

Granted, he is referring to the mechanics of the operation. Not the more than $20 million the industry generates in revenue each month. Nonethless, he openly admitted his opinion changed because of New Jersey.

Interstate compacts could and should sway states in favor of iPoker

Moreover, as WSOP.com Head of Online Poker Bill Rini explained to Online Poker Report, the existence of more states with online poker only helps states on the fence about the idea.

Just last month, New Jersey agreed to pool players with Nevada and Delaware. This compact will increase player liquidity on sites, resulting in bigger prize pools, bigger guarantees, and more action on the site.

To Rini, this development is something other states will absolutely notice:

“If it is very difficult for them to ramp up any sort of real business, then they don’t get any of the tax benefits. If they see that there is an opportunity for them to get into a pool of compacted states and it is being very well run with cooperation from all of the states, I think it does make it a little bit easier to take a look and say, ‘Hey, this is something that already works.’”

Poor commercial casino performances have Pretlow worried

Pretlow’s disinterest in the developments in Pennsylvania could be a sign he is growing less enthused with gambling expansion in New York. To his credit, that is somewhat understandable.

Earlier this year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office stated a concern about online poker was cannibalization of the new commercial casinos upstate. New Jersey online casinos readily shows cannibalization is not an issue. But the lackluster performance of these new properties is enough to make anyone gun shy.

Now Pretlow is focused on these brick and mortar properties. Namely, coming up with numbers that are more realistic when it comes to future revenue projections.

Pretlow wrote state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli regarding the financials on the three new casinos. In his letter, he expressed his concern the casinos will seek state help to avoid going under:

“It is critically important that we have reliable and realistic long-term revenue projections — so we can prevent the recent gaming expansion from creating an arms race for more and more tax subsidies.”

“When our state passed legislation to expand gaming, our decision was based on projections of robust revenues, and promises that casino development would not place new burdens on taxpayers. The last few months, however, have called into question those projections and promises.”

Is Pretlow getting gun shy about gambling?

Many racetracks in the state got tax breaks after Cuomo announced plans to build four commercial New York casinos. Currently the Seneca tribe is in the midst of arbitration that could cost the state money as well.

Pretlow’s thinks these properties claimed an ability to generate more revenue than they realistically could. And that the state might have to foot the bill. With this latest land-based casino project underwhelming even the lowest expectations, it would certainly make sense Pretlow is not particularly eager to start rallying the troops for more gambling expansion, even if it is online.

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.