ONLINE POKER BREAKTHROUGH IN NEW YORK?
 
State Senate votes to legalise online poker gambling.
 
The New York State Senate voted Tuesday to regulate and licence intrastate online poker, passing Sen. John Bonacics S. 5302 proposal on a 53 to 5 positive vote in an evening sitting.
 
The bill allows the states 11 racetrack casinos to apply for 11 licenses to hold online poker games, and now moves to the Assembly for further debate. If approved New York would become the fourth US state to legalise online poker, joining New Jersey, Delaware and Nevada.
 
However, time is now of the essence, thanks to a looming legislative deadline – this week is the last of the legislative session this year.
 
New Yorks constitution prohibits the state from allowing gambling except on state lotteries, horseracing and casinos approved by the Legislature, but the bill would get around that prohibition be classifying the online games of Texas Hold-em and Omaha Hold-em as games of skill instead of games of chance.
 
The 10-year licenses to run online poker gambling games would cost casinos $10 million apiece. The $10 million would be applied to a 15 percent state tax the casinos would owe on their online gaming revenue.
 
The state Assembly, is already considering at committee stage an identical bill sponsored by Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow (see previous InfoPowa report).
 
There was some opposition to Sen. Bonacics bill; Sen. Liz Kreuger questioned Bonacic for 30 minutes, claiming that online gambling is more addictive than land gambling.
 
Following the positive Senate vote the MGM Resorts International gambling group issued a statement applauding the Senate.
 
"Creating a safe, regulated option for online poker players in New York would generate millions in new tax revenue that could be used for education and other critical investments," said MGM General Counsel John McManus.
 
"We applaud the Senate for passing this sensible legalization that will help protect New Yorkers who have for years played online poker on unprotected, off-shore poker websites that today operate with no regulation, fraud controls, or age restrictions."
 
Sen. Bonacic told local reporters that legalised online poker in New York through the states racetrack casino operators held the promise of partnerships with Las Vegas casinos to share players.
 
The Poker Players Alliance action group urged quick action to enact the bill into law before the state legislative session ends on Thursday, June 16.
 
"Today marks a major achievement for internet poker regulation, but to be complete this bill must get to Governor Cuomos desk for signature," said John Pappas, executive director of the PPA. "With the state legislative session coming to an end this week, now is time for the Assembly to make iPoker regulation a priority. Not acting on it would essentially amount to the legislature turning their back on consumer protections and new revenue without raising taxes."
 
The Alliance has again mobilised its members to contact their political represen tatives in order to push the Bonacic bill forward.