New York Online Poker Discussion Continues After Senate Committee Hearing

September 21st, 2015 | by Kaycee James
New York online poker John Bonacic Gary Pretlow James Featherstonhaugh

James Featherstonhaugh, president of the NYGA, is concerned New York online poker would diminish revenues at the state’s land-based casinos and racinos. (Image: indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com)

New York online poker is without a doubt going to be on the docket come January when lawmakers resume politicking in Albany, and with the fall season commencing on Wednesday, the 2016 legislative year is quickly approaching.

State Senator John Bonacic (R-District 42) and Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow (D-District 89) are the two most important figures in the discussion, two politicians with a combined tenure of 47 years in the capital and both currently serving as chairs of their respective chambers’ racing and gaming committees.

If New Yorkers will be permitted to play poker online next year, it is probable that these two men will lead the push, but coming to mutual terms that satisfy lawmakers, tribal casinos, racetracks, and commercial operators might be a tall task.

Bona Fide Bonacic

Bonacic is the foremost champion of iPoker in the Empire State, introducing two previous bills that would have legalized the industry.

After the senator failed to achieve support from his fellow constituents, he held a hearing earlier this month to discuss its merits next year.

The “Public Hearing: To Discuss the Future of Online Poker in New York State” heard testimony from invitation-only panelists and the meeting largely supported such legislation.

Representatives from the Poker Players Alliance, MGM, Caesars, Borgata and Rush Street Gambling all provided insights that favored Internet gaming.

Bonacic’s long tenure as New York’s iPoker trailblazer has prepared him for changes in the 2016 legislative calendar, telling Gambling Compliance he plans to implement amendments to his forthcoming proposition to address concerns presented at the hearing.

“I’ve had the bills for two years,” Bonacic said last week to Time Warner Cable News. “Once implemented, depending on the revenues, about $25 to $40 million a year to the state of New York for online poker.”

Bonacic’s counterpart Pretlow is slowly reversing his stance, and while the democratic politician hasn’t gone so far as to publicly support iPoker, he has spoken out that the federal government should stay away regarding the issue.

Racinos Against iPoker

James Featherstonhaugh, president of the New York Gaming Association (NYGA), was the lone opponent to online gambling at the meeting.

Featherstonhaugh brought along an assistant to the hearing to run a PowerPoint presentation since he “knows how to do them” before testifying his expertise on gambling on the Internet.

“We contributed $864 million to education last year and we’ve contributed more than $5.5 billion since the first racino opened back in 2004,” Featherstonhaugh attested. “We think that the expansion of gaming in any way in New York over the next 24 to 36 months will have a significantly negative and disruptive impact.”

Featherstonhaugh is concerned online gaming could hamper three new land-based casinos that were awarded last December, but Rush Street Gaming, the developer and operator of the $300 million Rivers Casino & Resort at Mohawk Harbor, disagrees.

“At this time, we’d support the New York Legislature’s efforts to legalize both online casino and poker in the state,” Richard Schwartz, Rush Street Interactive president said in written testimony. “We believe the regulation of gaming represents a win-win.”

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