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Online poker hearings are quite important to those of us who are hoping to see regulation spread throughout the U.S., but they don’t seem to hold the same importance to New York legislators.

The state’s Senate Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee held a hearing Tuesday on Senator John Bonacic’s online poker bill, but only three of the 11 committee members attended, reported. And to make matters worse, two of those three lawmakers cut out early! Bonacic was left as the lone legislator for most of the hearing.

The lack of interest among committee members gives us a window to the urgency behind online poker legislation in New York. Testimony from one of the hearing’s witnesses also followed along the same lines, as New York Gaming Association president James Featherstonhaugh recommended waiting until three new upstate casinos are accepting live wagers from gamblers before online poker regulation discussions get serious.

Who Else Testified

It will likely take a few years before all three casinos are up and running. That apparently doesn’t bother the gaming association boss, as he sees a need to protect the market share of the state’s existing racinos. The clientele of those racinos are getting older, testified Spectrum Gaming Group managing director Michael Pollock, who views online poker as a path to attracting younger gamblers.

Also taking turns at the microphone were casino honchos David Satz of Caesars Entertainment, Tom Ballance of Borgata, and John McManus representing MGM Resorts. As expected, all made arguments on behalf of online poker and gambling, with Ballance pointing out that poker-only legislation such as S 5302 as introduced by Bonacic would severely limit potential revenue.

Richard Schwartz of Rush Street Interactive, GamblingCompliance’s Kevin Cochran, and Poker Players Alliance executive director John Pappas provided testimony as well, with the latter sounding off on ipoker regulation affording protection to consumers, and the need for interstate partnerships.

“Establishing a regulatory regime for online poker in New York should focus on an open and competitive market that fosters innovation and keeps consumer interests at the forefront,” Pappas said. “It is vitally important for New York to establish a system that allows for it to share players with other regulated jurisdictions.”

Anti-Online Gambling Forces Notably Absent

Missing at the hearing were groups opposed to online poker and gambling, as Bonacic apparently intended for the committee meeting to be a one-sided affair. The New York senator admitted to having received submissions from two groups against his online poker legislation, and one can likely bet the farm that one of those organizations was Sheldon Adelson’s Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling.

I’d like to see online poker regulation in New York and the rest of the country as much as the next guy, but a hearing on the matter should permit opposing forces to have their say too. But this hearing was exploratory in nature, likely laying the groundwork for future hearings in which both sides will provide testimony.

Charles Rettmuller

Charles has been an avid poker player for a number of years, both live and online. He holds a degree in journalism and previously worked as a reporter for a Chicago-based newspaper. Charles joined the PokerUpdate team in early 2012 and writes daily news articles for the site.