New York Online Poker Hearing Mostly Positive for Legalization

September 10th, 2015 | by Greg Shaun
New York online poker State Senator John Bonacic Sheldon Adelson

State Senator John Bonacic is the prominent voice in bringing New York online poker, and the gaming committee in which he chairs garnered additional support at a hearing this week. (Image: youtube.com)

New York online poker is one step closer to legalization after the state’s committee on Racing, Gaming and Wagering held a public hearing this week that featured little opposition to decriminalizing iPoker in America’s fourth most populous state.

Among those invited to testify included John Pappas, executive director of the Poker Players Alliance. “New York can take comfort in the fact that other states, other jurisdictions are doing this and doing this effectively,” the leading online poker advocacy executive affirmed.

State Senator John Bonacic (R-District 42) chairs the committee and also introduced S 5302, the prominent piece of legislation that would allow interactive poker games in the Empire State.

Bonacic stated prior to the hearing that the goal of the conference wasn’t to advance his bill, though the roster of invited orators seems to present a different picture.

Fair and Balanced?

Among the seven invited persons that delivered testimony to the committee, none were adamantly opposed to online poker, and five held positions at companies publicly promoting its legalization.

In addition to Pappas, James Featherstonhaugh of the New York Gaming Association, John McManus from MGM, David Satz of Caesars, and Borgata’s Tom Balance all spoke at the forum.

Balance, president of the Atlantic City property, was perhaps the most outspoken in support of New York online poker, and eased concerns among some committee members of the impact legalization might have on existing brick-and-mortar casinos and future venues.

“What I found is that the online gaming customer is a different customer than the land-based customer,” Balance said. “We found that an excellent addition to our distribution network.”

Only slight resistance to passing online poker was presented, mainly by Featherstonhaugh whose constituents include the state’s racinos. “We’re not saying this will destroy racing or gaming… We are saying we should proceed carefully.”

History Repeats, Kinda

Hearings are notorious for sometimes promoting the agenda of the committee’s leadership, and Wednesday’s ordeal was seemingly just that: Bonacic’s public crusade to spread awareness on the advantages of legalizing online poker in New York.

But one need not look far to see the other side of the debate, last March’s Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) presentation in the House of Representative’s Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations subcommittee that examined a federal online gambling ban.

During that discussion, nearly all of the rhetoricians supported an Internet gambling ban, with dire warnings on the impact of legalization being expressed.

Of course, the RAWA spectacle was allegedly for Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas Sands baron who is adamantly opposed to such legislation. While the billionaire’s influence is positively felt in Washington, DC, by way of his mega donations to GOP candidates, in Albany the Republican constituent Bonacic seems adamant on ending iPoker prohibition.

Bonacic, along with Caesars’ Senior Vice President Satz, went so far on Wednesday as to call for swift action before a federal mandate might be placed.

“It’s critical everyone understands the federal threat and effort by a certain individual to ban Internet gaming in all states is very real,” Satz testified. “Sitting and waiting … could be a mistake.”

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