New York Lawmakers Include Online Poker in Budget Proposal

Reports have emerged that New York may legalize online poker this summer, after the possibility for launching online version of the game within the state was listed in this week’s budget proposal as one of the many sources for much-needed revenue.

New York legislators are now burdened with the important task to find as many revenue streams as possible so as to form an effective budget plan totaling about $150 billion. As Casino News Daily reported earlier this month, an online poker bill has already been introduced to the Legislature. Sponsored by State Sen. John Bonacic, a long-time staunch supporter of the legalization of online poker in the state, S5302B made a historic progress in February.

The proposal passed the Senate Racing, Gaming, and Wagering Committee, which Sen. Bonacic chairs himself. Although there had been a number of online poker bills to be introduced over the past several years, none of those had even been voted on, let alone advance in the Legislature.

S5302B is now to be reviewed by members of the Senate Finance Committee. No progress on the proposal has been made since early in February but people who keep close watch on the matter believe that online poker may get legalized by the summer of 2016. There are several factors indicating that New York legislators have eventually decided to make that important step.

In the first place, as mentioned above, online poker was included in the latest budget proposal from earlier this week. According to preliminary industry estimates, an untapped online poker market would generate more than $120 million within the first year after the game is legalized. This means that New York’s Internet poker market would be five times as large as the one in New Jersey. The Garden State monthly reports online poker revenue of about $2 million.

Another important thing to take into consideration is the fact that New Jersey has approved a legislation that calls for the construction of two casinos in the northern part of the state, not far from New York City. New Jersey residents will vote on the proposal at the November ballot.

New York annually losses $1 billion in revenue spent by residents at out-of-state gambling venues. With New Jersey potentially introducing casino gambling outside Atlantic City, the market in the region would become even more competitive. Online poker is seen one of the ways for New York to attract the attention of gambling customers from within the state and to prevent them from traveling to casinos in neighboring states.

In addition to all this, New York lawmakers seem to be in a hurry to legalize daily fantasy sports. Online poker may eventually benefit from that urgency, as it is considered a game of skill just like DFS. Some suggest that they may get approved in an omnibus legislation.

Last year, legislators said at a hearing that poker could be brought on the Internet only after the construction and launch of the three upstate casinos that were licensed by the New York State Gaming Commission late in 2015. However, given the fact that discussions on the matter have become much more serious since then and an online poker bill has passed a Senate committee, the online version of the game may get legalized much sooner.

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