Online Poker in New York Gets Second Shot at Success in 2017

February 8th, 2017 | by Kaycee James

Online poker in New York could happen in 2017, but only if there’s enough political will to make it so.

Gary Pretlow poker bill.

New York Assemblyman Gary Pretlow will try once again to convince his house members that poker is a game of skill. (Image: nyassembly.gov)

Following New York Senator John Bonacic’s (R-Mount Hope) submission of online poker bill S03898 on January 27, 2017, Assemblyman Gary Pretlow (D-Mt. Vernon) has done the same with A05250.

While Bonacic’s bill is currently trying to make its way through the state senate, Pretlow will try to rally support for his bill in the New York Assembly.

The newly filed A05250 is identical to S03898 and seeks to amend the racing, pari-mutuel wagering and breeding law in relation to certain “interactive poker games.” Under the current law, poker is defined as a game of chance and, therefore, illegal.

Pretlow Pushing the Skill Angle

The bill cites various instances where poker has been deemed a game of skill, including the famous New York federal court in U.S. v. DiCristina.

Back in 2012 when Lawrence DiCristina was arrested and charged with running an illegal gambling business, Judge Jack Weinstein overturned the conviction with a ruling that said poker is a game of skill over chance.

Although that ruling was later overturned, Weinstein’s assessment of poker as a game of skill has stuck. Using this to support his efforts, Pretlow is hoping he can convince members of the New York Assembly to back the bill and get certain forms of poker (Texas Hold’em and Omaha are explicitly mentioned) legalized.

“Authorized game means Omaha Hold’em and Texas Hold’em poker, as well as any other poker game that the commission determines is the material equivalent of either of those, whether in a cash game or tournament,” reads A05250.

Correct Definition is Still a Source of Debate

However, despite previous support for the idea that poker is a game of skill, there may still be opposition to A05250. When Pretlow filed the same bill back in 2016, it was eventually declared dead after he told GamblingCompliance that certain members of the house had “issues” with it.

While there is no guarantee things will be different this time around, Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) may have set a precedent. Following a series of back-and-forth debates, DFS was eventually classified as a skill game and eventually regulated within the state of New York in August 2016.

If Pretlow’s and Bonacic’s bills can convince people that poker is no different to DFS with regards to the skill vs. luck debate, then regulation is the only natural step. Should this happen, early provisions have been set out for 11 online poker licenses to be made available.

For an upfront fee of $10 million, operators would be able to set-up services within the state and offer tournaments and cash games in any of the variants deemed acceptable under poker’s “skill” definition.

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