The Road to Online Poker Legalization in New York
New York is one of several states as-of-late to consider the legalization of online poker. If the Empire State receives authorization to open online poker within its borders, it has the propensity to become one of the largest markets due to its population size.
Online Poker in New York Beginning to Garner Serious Discussion
Online poker legislation in New York has only been discussed seriously since early 2014. The reason for New York’s instantly ignited interest in this market? The legalization of online poker in New Jersey.
Along with Nevada and Delaware, New Jersey legalized online poker in 2013. The move to legalized online poker came as the result of a December 2011 memo from the U.S. Department of Justice changing a long held opinion regarding the Wire Act and its connection to online gambling. The memo stated the Wire Act only pertained to sport betting. This revelation opened the door for states to consider creating their own iPoker legislation.
The attempt to legalize internet poker in New York began March 2013 when it was included as part of the state budget. Lawmakers tried to sell poker as a game of skill but failed to gain backing from the state assembly. It was later dropped from the budget.
Two bills were submitted to the state legislature in 2014. State Senator John Bonacic submitted S6913 in March 2014; a bill that would have excluded poker as a game of chance. The bill would have seen licensees pay $10 million for a ten-year license as well as 15% taxes annually on gross revenues.
In May 2014, Assemblyman Gary Pretlow submitted A9509, a companion bill to S6913. Both bills included the dreaded “bad actor clause,” effectively banning PokerStars from the New York market.
*The bad actor clause states all online poker sites participating in the U.S. after the UIGEA was passed in 2006 are banned from reentering the market. This includes PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker
As of 2014, neither bill received significant backing and failed to reach a vote before the end of the legislative session.
In 2015, Senator Bonacic filled S5302. While very similar to the bill he submitted in 2014, it will ease the process of online poker legalization. The two biggest changes are the ability for New York to enter into interstate compacts, and the removal of the bad actor clause. However, this bill failed to move forward when the legislative session ended in June 2015.
Will PokerStars Be Granted a License to Offer Online Poker in New York?
The fate of PokerStars rests squarely on the wording of the online poker bill. While A9509 and S6913 mentioned the bad actor clause, S5302 left it out. The bad actor clause is the primary determinant if PokerStars will be accepted “into the fold” when online poker is legalized.
This comes as part of a major shift in the standing opinion of bad actors, specifically PokerStars. Caesars Entertainment, for example, one of the world’s largest gaming companies, recently changed their view of bad actors. They believe PokerStars should be allowed to operate in the U.S.
Which Gaming Sites Will Offer Online Poker Once it is Regulated?
As with any other state with iPoker regulations, any company looking to offer online poker in NY will need to go through a comprehensive licensing process. The only exception would be if an already existing casino in New York decides to build their own site without the aid of a third party.
Realistically, many expect most casinos to partner with third-party providers. They have the knowledge and experience needed to make online poker successful. Here are a few sites expected to join.
WSOP.com is the number-one legal online poker site in the U.S. Currently operating in New Jersey and Nevada, Caesars Interactive Entertainment has taken advantage of full integration with the World Series of Poker brand to offer the best online poker experience in the country.
If New York agrees to interstate compacts, WSOP.com would be an ideal candidate for provider. WSOP.com is already in the process of offering innovative tournaments and in the future, we could even see a multi-state WSOP bracelet event spread.
888 Poker is the only online poker company currently licensed in all three states. They currently provide the backbone software for WSOP.com and are the sole provider of iPoker in Delaware. Because of 888 Poker’s versatility and their All American Poker Network (AAPN) brand, at least one casino will want to partner with them.
PartyPoker is one of the oldest online poker sites and has a solid spread of cash games and tournaments. It made the choice to leave the U.S. after the passing of the UIGEA in 2006. It has paid off as PartyPoker successfully returned to the online poker market in New Jersey. Once New York legalizes online poker, it is expected that PartyPoker will sign a deal to bring their unique brand of poker to the state.