Several months ago, Pennsylvania became the fourth state to legalize iGaming and online poker sites in the U.S., with more states expected to follow. Despite the years-long efforts and the strong Senate support, however, there is little hope for legalizing online poker in New York any time soon as the proposed bill for the so-called games of skill was removed from the state budget.
Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York Senate passed a $168 billion budget this weekend, but the online poker funding was not included. This means that legal online poker will not come to the state in the following months. Most probably, there will be no discussions on the matter at least by the end of 2018. The long-anticipated legislation was expected to amend several state laws, namely the Penal Code and the Racing, Pari-Mutuel Wagering and Breeding Law, to form a special category for “game of skill” that would include real money online poker games. The proposed bill, S3898, was designed to exempt poker from being deemed a “game of chance”, a category that is currently illegal in the state.
In January, the Senate passed the bill with the hope that it would be approved by the Assembly and by the governor. In fact, that was the third year in a row that the Senate passes such legislation but to no avail. The Assembly even refused to vote on the bill, leaving New York online poker fans with no hope for playing online tournaments from their home state. Now, with the new budget passed Saturday, Gov. Cuomo and state lawmakers showed they have little interest in legalizing online poker games and collecting taxes from them.
Moreover, the Empire State has made it clear that the land-based casinos will receive no financial boost from online games. All four non-tribal casinos in New York are struggling financially and while in states such as New Jersey, casinos are using iGaming for additional revenue, gambling facilities in New York will not have this option in the near future. One casino, in particular, has failed badly and is now asking the state for a bailout – this is the $440 million Del Lago Resort Casino in Seneca County, which predicted revenue of $263 million during its first year of operation. These figures, however, seemed too optimistic due to the poor performance of the casino, which is now in a serious debt.
Sports Betting May Open the Door to Online Poker in New York
The U.S. Supreme Court is now considering to abolish the state-wide ban on sports betting, known as the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA). In case the law is overruled, all states will have the right to legalize sports wagering. Many states, including New York, are now discussing new legislation that would allow sportsbooks, with some already preparing bills intended to regulate this potentially profitable market.
The Supreme Court’s decision is expected by June and according to experts and industry representatives, the ruling will be in favour of sports betting. Should that happen, individual states will be free to license sportsbooks or choose to ban them. It is possible that New York lawmakers could prepare a legislative package that would combine sports betting and online poker. It seems that, at least for now, this is the only way online poker games can come to the state.