New York approves online poker bill second year in a row

Online poker bill in NY makes headwayThe New York Senate has just passed a bill to legalise online poker for the second consecutive year.

We sound like a broken record when it comes to all the gambling bills in the US – especially in Pennsylvania.

This time we are talking New York, where an attempt to legalise online poker since 2014 has made some headway.

On Tuesday, the bill, sponsored by Senator John Bonacic, won 54-8 on the grounds poker is a game of skill.

A similar online poker bill was presented by Bonacic last year and approved by a 53-5 vote. It was the first time it had been approved by the Senate.

“This bill serves two main purposes in allowing New Yorkers access to regulated online poker while providing critical consumer protections and increasing revenues to the state for education and taxes via operator licenses,” Bonacic said following the approval of this year’s bill.

The piece of legislation will now make its way to the Assembly – the same stage last year’s bill got to before it was thrown out without even a debate.

“I will continue to work with my colleagues in the Assembly to see that this bill passes both houses before the end of session,” Bonacic added.

Key Assemblyman, J. Gary Pretlow, has been vague about this year’s chances – he was thoroughly against the legalisation of online poker last year – but has indicated it could have a better reception. However, speculation is all that is really available as we await the bill’s fate.

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Known as Bill S3898, if passed New York players aged 21 years and older could play poker online by licensed operators. The Gaming Commission would be given the right to award up to 11 online poker licenses which are not limited to in-state businesses (land-based casinos in New York).

The tax rate indicated in the bill would see online poker operators taxed 15 percent of gross gaming revenue, while the upfront license fee is a whopping $US10 million. The upfront fee is balanced out by the fact it pays for future taxes owed, though.

The bill also allows the state to team up with other states which allow online poker.

Unfortunately for New York poker players, a bad actor language was added to the bill last week prior to its approval.

This amendment rules out any online gambling operators which offered their services to American citizens after December 31, 2006.

State regulators will have to consider whether the operators “knowingly and wilfully accepted or made available wagers on interactive gaming (including poker)” or “knowingly facilitated or otherwise provided services” to operators which did accept the wagers.

While the bad actor clause does not completely ban these operators, it will make it difficult for those who fall under the clause.

One operator which will find it difficult to get a license is PokerStars – one of the biggest online poker sites in the world. PokerStars continued to accept players from the US after the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act 2006 was implemented.

The law made online gambling illegal in the US and even though skill-based gaming is excluded, online poker does not fall under this genre in most of America.

While Amaya purchased PokerStars in 2014 when the company was no longer in the US market, the amendment also includes operators which “purchased or acquired, directly or indirectly, in whole or insignificant part… a covered asset in connection with interactive gaming.”

This means even though Amaya had nothing to do with PokerStars choice to remain in the market, the company will still have a difficult time getting in.

Interestingly the amendment came just a few weeks after it was revealed an illegal $25,000 campaign donation was given to New York’s Governor, Andrew Cuomo, by Amaya’s former CEO, David Baazov, in 2014.

The following year, the ‘bad actor’ language which was present in Bonacic’s 2015 online poker bill was removed.