New York Online Poker Bill Takes Leap Forward, California Back in Play

Posted on February 20th, 2017 by Jon Pineda

A New York online poker bill never made it to the governor’s desk last year. But some lawmakers in the Empire State are already pushing to pass legislation this year.

New York online poker

Will Governor Andrew Cuomo soon have a chance to sign a New York online poker bill into law? (Image:

Thanks to a unanimous vote (11-0), the Senate Gaming Committee approved S 3898, a measure to categorize poker as a game of skill. It’s far from a done deal, but the vote early in the year is a positive step forward. It shows there are lawmakers in the state who want to get this thing moving.

John Bonacic (R-42nd District) sponsors the bill. He advocated for online poker legalization last year to no avail. The state Senator believes internet poker can help New York generate some much needed tax revenue. If the original plan falls through, he has a backup plan in place.

“I will try to get this into the Senate budget, but if I can’t then it will be a standalone bill after the budget bill is passed and the ball will be in [Gary] Pretlow’s court,” the Senator said.

If Bonacic can convince other New York lawmakers that poker is a game of skill, the odds of passing the legislation will increase. Until that happens, the bill will remain stuck in neutral despite the recent Senate Gaming Committee vote.

Going Back, Back to Cali, Cali

Similar to in New York, failed online poker legislation won’t stop some California lawmakers from trying again in 2017. Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-59th District) is bringing back AB 1677, a bill that would legalize online poker in the Golden State.

The measure failed to pass a year ago and the likelihood of passing this year isn’t great. But Jones-Sawyer isn’t just going to throw in the towel. He knows this is a 10-round fight. The opposition will throw some punches, but the Assemblymember, along with the Poker Players Alliance, will continue to jab.

Jones-Sawyer’s reintroduced proposed measure would allow Indian tribes and brick-and-mortar card rooms in the state to apply for an online poker license. Each approved applicant would be required to pay a fee and taxes on revenue generated from internet poker games.

What’s Next?

California’s online poker bill has many obstacles to overcome before approaching the finish line.

The measure would need both sides to come together on a suitability disagreement. AB 1677 doesn’t discriminate against sites that operated in the US prior to Black Friday (i.e. PokerStars). That doesn’t sit well with the opposition.

In New York, there is more reason to be optimistic. The Senate Finance Committee will have the next vote. A victory there sends it on to the Assembly, which is the last step before getting to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s desk for an approval signature.

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