New York Online Poker Bill Omits Bad Actor Language 

May 18th, 2015 | by Brian Corlisse
New York online poker bill PokerStars State Sen. John Bonacic

A New York online poker bill doesn’t seek to ban PokerStars and Full Tilt, an attractive exclusion to lawmakers who have seen other states’ iPoker markets struggle without the world’s largest network. (Image: calvinayre.com)

New York online poker, previously thought to be a longshot for passage in 2015, just received a much-needed boost by way of a new bill.

Authored by State Senator John Bonacic (R-District 42), bill S05302 would allow certain online poker games, those that require skill over luck, to be licensed and offered to residents of New York.

Though Assemblyman Gary Pretlow (D-District 89), the lower house’s Racing and Wagering Committee chairman, recently told reporters that “online poker will not happen within the year,” it appears the other state legislative branch isn’t quite as pessimistic.

Like Pretlow, Bonacic chairs his chamber’s Racing, Gaming, and Wagering Committee, meaning hearings on his bill are to be expected, and should it gain momentum, a vote on bringing iPoker to New York is a strong possibility.

Bill Has Fighting Chance

Bonacic believes Texas Hold’em and Omaha Hold’em are games of skill, thus excluding them from current law that prohibits online gambling.

“New York courts have interpreted New York law to apply to a more rigorous test in identifying a “contest of chance” than is applied by most states in this nation and the courts have found that where a contest pits the skill levels of the players against each other, those games are games of skill and not games of chance,” Bonacic’s act reads. 

The bill mandates licensees will pay a one-time $10 million fee, good for 10 years, and will be taxed at 15 percent of its gross gaming revenues.

Bad Is Good

This isn’t the first time Bonacic pushed for the legalization of online poker; in fact, he did so just last year. In March of 2014, his Internet poker bill failed to even receive a vote, ultimately dying in the senate.

The key difference for 2015 is the omission of any so-called “bad actor” language, a previous clause that would effectively ban PokerStars and Full Tilt from entering the New York market due to its illegal operation following the passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA).

On April 15, 2011, poker’s Black Friday, both networks were seized by the Department of Justice and closed, and neither has been welcomed back to the United States by any state with legalized Internet poker at this point, although there have been negotiations taking place for that very thing to happen.

New Gold Rush

It’s no longer a matter of “if” PokerStars enters the United States, but “when” and “where.” The world’s largest online network is primed and ready as its parent company Amaya is pushing the expansion of iPoker over all other interests.

New Jersey has taken a lackadaisical approach to PokerStars, delaying the site’s application time and time again. Governor Chris Christie says don’t look at him, but some of his congressional lawmakers feel he’s influencing the state’s Division of Gaming Enforcement to hold up the license.

On the other hand, Pennsylvania seems intent on bringing online poker to its residents sooner rather than later, with three current bills on the table. The leading proposal, authored by State Rep. John Payne (R-District 106), is also free of any “bad actor” language.

As states that have legalized online poker have struggled to produce revenues anywhere close to pre-legalization estimates, it’s become apparent that welcoming PokerStars, or at least keeping the option open, is a vital condition to creating a robust market on the state level.

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