New York Online Poker Given Boost by MGM Resorts

October 14th, 2014 | by Jason Reynolds
NY State Senator John Bonacic Let NY Play campaign

MGM Resorts has already worked to support legislation by State Senator John Bonacic that would regulate New York online poker. (Image: article.wn.com)

New York online poker may still seem like a pipe dream, but with MGM Resorts backing the plan, it’s a dream that could yet materialize.

That’s because MGM wants online poker in New York, and is the source behind a social media campaign designed to drum up support for the idea. That’s according to a report this week from The New York Times, which says that the global casino firm is the source of Let NY Play, a group that wants to see Internet poker regulated in New York.

The fact that MGM would be working behind the scenes to try to push for online gambling in New York is of little surprise. MGM has already lobbied for online poker in the Empire State this year, and the company is one of the most prominent in the industry that has supported the spread of Internet gaming nationwide.

MGM’s New York Lobby

Let NY Play has shown up on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook just in the past few weeks, spreading messages designed to encourage support for online poker from New Yorkers themselves. The messages have largely been of a single tone: since New Jersey already allows for online poker, residents of New York should be able to play those games too, without having to travel to the Garden State to do so.

For MGM, this is just the latest effort in an ongoing campaign to bring online poker to New York. Earlier this year, the company supported a bill sponsored by State Senator John Bonacic (R-Catskills) that would have regulated Internet poker in the state as a way of generating more revenue.

While MGM might be interested in regulating other casino games as well, they say that online poker is currently the game that has the best chance of being approved by legislators.

“The reality is that poker is the one whose business model is already established and the one that would be the most acceptable and appropriate, certainly from a political point of view,” Alan Feldman, executive vice president of MGM, told the Times.

MGM even commissioned an analysis of the state’s online poker market, one that found that residents might be betting as much as $110 million annually on unregulated sites. If that market could be entirely translated over to licensed and regulated play, the study estimated that the state could raise anywhere from $50 million to $80 million in annual tax revenue.

New Jersey Realities Temper Expectations

Both Bonacic and MGM understand that those estimates may be a bit lofty, however. MGM owns half of the Borgata casino in Atlantic City, and while that casino has been relatively successful in both the online casino and Internet poker markets in New Jersey, they’ve seen first hand how much lower the actual revenues have been when compared to early projections from state officials. However, Feldman says the company still expects the numbers to come up dramatically if given the time to do so.

“It’s been a little bit slower to start than some had expected,” Feldman said. “But we think over time it’s going to be exactly what they did expect and more.”

The campaign for online poker in New York might also take some time. Right now, support for the Let NY Play campaign has been modest, and there have only been about 5,000 likes for the group’s page on Facebook. Some legislators may also be reluctant to take up the issue while the state is also grappling with casino expansion, as New York is in the process of licensing four casinos in upstate areas. MGM has not applied for any of these licenses.

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