New York Inches Forward to Online Poker Legalization

New York has moved an inch closer toward the legalization of online poker after a proposed legislation passed a first Senate Committee vote earlier this week. Although the affirmative vote was a small step forward, it was an important one for the state’s long-running Internet poker legalization and regulation effort.

A Senate bill – S 3898 – sponsored by State Sen. John Bonacic was introduced back in January. A hearing and vote on the proposed legislative piece was held on Tuesday by the Senate Racing, Wagering, and Gaming Committee. Here it is important to note that the 11-person committee is chaired by Sen. Bonacic himself. The Tuesday vote ended with overwhelming support for the effort.

The bill will now be reviewed by the Senate Finance Committee, as reported by OnlinePokerReport. If it gains the necessary support among its members, it will then head to the full Senate.

Under New York’s law, any bill must be voted in the affirmative by the majority of Senate legislators in order to be able to go on to the Assembly. Assembly members may, in turn, approve it without any amendments or propose certain amendments to it. If it is approved without amendments, it is then sent to the Governor. If there are changes in its wording, these must be approved by the Senate first.

Once on the Governor’s table, a legislative piece may be either signed into law, or vetoed. New York’s highest official has ten days to make up his mind. If no action is taken within the ten-day period, the bill automatically becomes law. In other words, the proposed legalization of online poker still has a long way to go.

Gambling Expansion and Sen. Bonacic’s Bill

Gambling expansion is a sensitive topic in New York. Under the state’s law, only constitutional amendments could allow for further expansion of the local gambling industry. So why Sen. Bonacic is trying to introduce a new type of gambling offering?

In fact, the S 3898 proposes a change in the definition of poker as a game whose outcome relies on certain skills rather than on mere luck. This way online poker may be legalized and regulated without this being considered gambling expansion.

An identical piece has been introduced in the Assembly by Assemblyman Gary Pretlow, who had previously backed a separate online poker bill by Sen. Bonacic but had later on withdrawn his support to let the legislation die in the Assembly.

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