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Democrat wants to legalise poker in New York
4/21/10 - In New York Assemblyman Joe Lentol - a Democrat representing Williamsburg - has proposed legalising poker, inspired he says by the needs of today’s young gamblers.
“Poker is the game that most people want to play now,” said the longtime assemblyman. “New Yorkers watch it on TV, they play poker on their computers and many would like to go out for a night and play it in a nice setting.
“We’ve been seeing the enthusiasm for poker for a number of years now,” added Lentol. “We’re still doing types of gambling that may no longer appeal to gamblers in this century. Times have changed, the technology has changed. They don’t need OTB [Off Track Betting] parlors.”
OTB action in the state is currently taking strain, and Governor Paterson has decided not to bail out the operation, possibly heralding its demise. Without OTB, gamblers are more likely to head to Atlantic City, depriving the state of its cut through tax.
Assemblyman Lentol has not so far indicated how he sees the implementation of legalised and regulated poker, but has said that parlours could have amenities such as snack bars, televisions, and even other sports — as long as they are regulated.
Lentol’s proposal seeks to amend the state constitution by adding “social card games as determined by the legislature” to the list of existing games of chance, which includes Bingo, that the state will allow.
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In March, 2008, a state Senate committee sought to specifically penalise Internet poker gaming, but the attempt failed. Lentol is more optimistic on the chances for legalisation this year, noting that the timing of OTB’s financial difficulties make the idea more palatable for legislators and the public.
Lentol has noted that there are few instances of illegal poker rings, a view apparently supported by Kings County DA Charles Hynes, who is on record as saying that he did not recall any poker busts in the past five years, and illegal sports gambling remains more of a concern.
But Lentol faces a long and uphill struggle - to become law, his proposal would not only have to pass both houses and be signed by Gov. Paterson, but requires a Constitutional amendment adopted by voters through a referendum.
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