A Bill proposing the regulation of online poker in New York State has been presented by Republican Senator John Bonacic – a pro-online gambling Republican!
A few eyebrows were raised last week when Bill S-6913 was introduced to the New York State Senate last week; not because New York has traditionally viewed poker as a game of chance and therefore considered it illegal, but because the Bill was introduced by a Republican Senator at a time when Republican views on online poker are being heavily influenced by Sheldon Adelson´s millions and his Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling.
The Bill itself came as no surprise, after the New York Senate had included a resolution in budgeting negotiations earlier this month which supported the regulation of online poker
to reflect recent changes in the classification of these games – but although the prospect of online poker in New York was welcomed by Democrat Governor Andrew Cuomo, the Bill was introduced too late to be included in legislation for the 2014/2015 financial year which starts tomorrow (April 1st).
Skilful Players Welcome – but not Bad Actors
The content of the Bill aims to classify poker (specifically Texas Hold´em and Omaha games of poker) as a game of skill to distinguish it from other
contests of chance and, if passed, would allow for both cash games and poker tournaments to be played online. A clause also exists which would allow New York operators to share liquidity with operators from other States – provided they are not classed as a
Bad Actors are classified as online poker operators who continued to provide a service in the US after 31st December 2006, and the proposals in Senator Bonacic´s Bill would not only disqualify companies such as PokerStars from obtaining a license in New York, but – should PokerStars be able to launch elsewhere in the US – prevent online poker companies in New York from sharing a database with PokerStars or any other entity that was involved in online poker in the states post-2006.
$100 Million in License Fees and 15% Gross Revenue Taxes
Senator Bonacic´s proposed legislation allows for the issuing of up to ten online poker licenses – each at a cost of $10million – which would be good for a period of ten years. Companies ponying up the $10million buy-in would then be subject to 15% tax on their gross gaming revenue (rake less promotions, but not operating costs) and have to prove to the New York State Gaming Commission that they can adequately monitor issues such as geo-location, consumer privacy and problem gambling.
Further clauses prohibit unregulated companies from offering online gambling, and – similar to the legislation passed in New Jersey – make it an offense for the operator to provide online poker in New York. Unregulated companies who have been providing a service in the past eight years will be liable for all the taxes due during that period. The funds raised by the regulation of online poker in New York would then go towards funding the State´s education department and community colleges.
What Chance of Success for Bonacic´s Bill?
Bonacic´s Bill has a very strong chance of being successful. The wording of the proposed legislation attempts to isolate poker from other forms of online gambling (which would mostly remain illegal) and provide much needed revenue for the State – appeasing both Democrats and Republicans on the Senate who remain opposed to online gambling. The Bill quickly passed through its first hearing and has moved onto the Senate Committee on Racing, Gaming and Wagering – where Senator Bonacic is chair.
Should Senate pass the second reading of the Bill, it is unlikely to dwell on Governor Cuomo´s desk for long before being enacted as legislation. According to the timetable within the Bill, the online poker regulations would be on the books within 180 days and the first State licenses issued within a further 180 days. In practice, online poker in New York could be a reality by this time next year!