New York Online Poker Advocate Gary Pretlow Says Passage Unlikely in 2016

Posted on April 11th, 2016 by Jon Pineda
New York online poker Bonacic Pretlow

State Senator John Bonacic and Assemblyman Gary Pretlow, right, are leading the push for New York online poker, but their efforts will once again likely fail in 2016 unless daily fantasy sports regulation is quickly enacted. (Image: Lori Van Buren/Times Union)

New York online poker has endured a wild ride in the first quarter of 2016.

The leading gaming advocates in the state, Assemblyman Gary Pretlow (D-District 89) and Senator John Bonacic (R-District 42), unified their efforts earlier this year by pushing two identical online poker bills in their respective chambers. The legislation passed through the Senate Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee and was seemingly dealt a strong backdoor card when the bill was included in a draft of the state budget.

But now it appears Internet poker in the Empire State is on the wrong side of a bad beat.

At last week’s iGaming North America 2016 conference held at the Planet Hollywood Resort in Las Vegas, Pretlow said during the Emerging Jurisdictions program that while daily fantasy sports legalization is likely in the coming months, iPoker is doubtful.

“With online poker, there are some issues there and we’re not really prepared to introduce legislation that’s going to go to the floor for a vote,” Pretlow said via Skype from Albany. “You’re looking at a 100-1 shot to hit the floor, a 1,000-1 shot to hit the floor.”

Empirical Empire State

Pretlow’s gloomy forecast for New York online poker in 2016 forces the question, “What happened?”

Following months of what appeared to be progress and a unanimous 9-0 vote in committee, Senate Bill 5302 has lost all of its momentum. The State Senate Finance Committee is currently shelving the legislation even though Bonacic is one of the presiding members of the 37-constituent panel.

The answer to the aforementioned question might be daily fantasy sports.

As predicted in January, Pretlow’s three-year crusade to bring legalized online poker to New York residents is taking a back seat to DFS matters.

New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is the most outspoken and active critic of DraftKings and FanDuel and has forced both operators out of the state as the legal process into determining their validity continues.

Feast or Famine

Online poker operators are licking their chops regarding the possibility of entering a jurisdiction the size of New York. Pennsylvania and California, two additional states considering iPoker and home to roughly one in six US residents combined, would provide an even larger buffet of players for companies like PokerStars to consume.

However, the recent developments surrounding PokerStars’ parent company CEO David Baazov might negatively impact those legalization chances. Charged with insider trading misconduct by Quebec’s Autorité des Marchés Financiers (AMF), Baazov’s alleged actions might give fuel to powerful tribes who oppose online poker, or at the very least wish to include a “bad actor” clause to prevent PokerStars’ return to the state.

As many interactive gaming analysts predicted, the rise of DFS contests and the subsequent legal conversation that it’s generated has presumably slowed online poker legislation. While some optimism remains, particularly in Pennsylvania, the strongest bet for iPoker in 2016 is that it will end the way it began, with only three states playing online.

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