In a landmark event, the New York State Senate voted this week to legalize online poker. The senate house passed the bill 53-5, with an overwhelming majority voting in favour of legalizing online poker in New York.
If approved by the state Assembly, New York would become the fourth state in the U.S to legalize online gaming.
The other three states that have legalized online gambling are Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey.
If New York legalized online poker, it would allow the state’s 11 racinos to apply for online gaming licenses.
Michael Whyland, a spokesman for the Assembly Democratic majority said that the Assembly needs to discuss the bill and pass it within a weeks’ time for it to move forward as the current session of the House closes shortly.
Under the terms of the bill, online poker games such as Omaha Hold-em and Texas Hold-em are termed as games of skill allowing the bill to adopt a workaround the New York Constitution which bans gambling except on state-approved state lotteries, horseracing and licensed casinos. The sponsor of the bill, Sen. John Bonacic stated that if the online poker legislation is passed, the state's racetrack casinos might explore partnerships with Las Vegas casinos to offer internet wagering.
The bill allows the issuance of licenses that would be valid for 10 years and would require operators to pay a licensing fee of $10 million. The license fee paid will however be applied against the tax owed by the casino to the state. The tax rate has been set at 15 percent of annual gambling revenue. The bill does not specify that fees collected from the online poker industry should go to the state’s education funds. Bonacic also confirmed that players would need to be 21 years of age to access online gambling websites.
With a companion bill still to be introduced in the state Assembly, gambling experts are not optimistic of the poker bill being clearing in this session. However, it remains possible for the bill to be fast-tracked should the Assembly agree to the process. The other alternative to speed up the process is to add the bill to an omnibus bill which can help the bill clear along with many other bills, including a possible daily fantasy sports bill.
Even if the bill does not get fast-tracked, the majority vote indicates that the bill will see an easy passage in 2017. Analysts also expect a number of other states such as Michigan and Pennsylvania to see similar legislative approval for their pending online poker bills.