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NY Places 2020 Hopes in Resurfaced Online Poker Bill

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While it’s accurate to note that several states in the US made quite a lot of progress in 2019 where online gambling is concerned, it’s also true that New York stalled in this area. In fact, there was almost a complete lack of any kind of progress during the last year.

Yet, there’s the potential for that to change in 2020 as Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D) is looking to try and push an online poker bill through once again. Of course, whether or not that will happen is anyone’s guess considering that lawmakers within New York have tried filing such bills every year since 2014 and have not yet come up with any kind of positive result.

New York Is Trying to Pass Online Poker Legislation in 2020

More About Addabbo's Bill

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There’s little doubt that those who have been campaigning for legal online poker sites in The Empire State will be looking to make progress this year. Alas, is it really possible? After all, the New York online poker bill has not been altered in any way since it was introduced last year. Its terms are quite simple on the whole, with the summary of it reading:

Allows certain interactive poker games be considered games of skill rather than games of luck; includes definitions, authorization, required safeguards and minimum standards, the scope of licensing review and state tax implications; makes corresponding penal law amendments.

That bill was introduced by Addabbo originally with Senator Rich Funke cosponsoring it. Should it be passed in The Empire State, it would allow for up to 11 licenses to be granted for operators to provide online poker within. Each of those licenses would be valid for a period of 10 years, with each one requiring a fee of $10 million to be paid. There would also be a state tax in place, which would take 15% of gross revenue: very close to the tax rates that both Pennsylvania and New Jersey employ.

Joseph AddabboState Senator Joseph Addabbo Introduced Online Poker Legislation in New York

Unfortunately, in 2019, that bill didn’t go anywhere. It was simply left lying around and pretty much abandoned. This being the case, it has now been re-assigned to the Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee, which is actually chaired by Addabbo himself.

A Material Legal Change Coming?

One of the interesting tidbits contained in the bill would change the definition of “Contest of chance” in NY's anti-gambling laws. The current version is found in Section 225 of the New York Penal Code:

1. "Contest of chance" means any contest, game, gaming scheme or gaming device in which the outcome depends in a material degree [emphasis added] upon an element of chance, notwithstanding that skill of the contestants may also be a factor therein.

Addabbo's legislation would alter this to the following:

1. "Contest of chance" means any contest, game, gaming scheme or gaming device in which the outcome depends predominantly [emphasis added] upon an element of chance, notwithstanding that skill of the contestants may also be a factor therein.

This would abandon the old Material Element test, which is used to determine if an activity is a form of gambling. The Material Element test, though prominent in laws from New York as well as many other jurisdictions, has been found by some experts to be exceptionally vague and problematic. By adjusting the wording of the laws to only classify as “contests of chance” those forms of gaming in which chance plays the dominating role, the bill would allow not only poker but also all kinds of other games to be exempt from anti-gambling statutes.

Pretlow’s Bill Also Re-Assigned

It’s not only Addabbo who has been fighting for online poker to be classified as a game of skill and therefore made legal in New York. As well as Bill S18 from Addabbo and Funke, Assemblyman Gary Pretlow (D) submitted his own matching bill (A 4924) last year, which also didn’t make any movement. This bill has now been re-assigned to Pretlow’s committee within the lower chamber.

Gary PretlowNYS Assemblyman Gary Pretlow Has Attempted to Advance Online Gaming for Several Years

Together, Pretlow and Addabbo have served as a united front in the battle to have online poker legalized in New York. Unfortunately, that front doesn’t seem to have garnered much ground since becoming an entity even though Pretlow has been involved in it since the very beginning. Addabbo, on the other hand, took over from John Bonacic, who retired as state senator last year.

While sports betting has managed to be approved within a regulated environment, poker and other forms of gaming haven’t been given the same attention. The sports betting sector took plenty of time to be approved, and it's still not active for mobile and internet wagers. Even though Pretlow and Co. have been fighting for legalized online gaming, their efforts have pretty much gone unrewarded over the past seven years.

New Yorkers Not Outrightly Optimistic About Online Gambling

With such dreadful results in terms of online gambling bills of the past, it’s not surprising to realize that New York residents aren’t specifically optimistic about it coming to fruition in 2020. Pretlow and Addabbo have been tackling the Assembly and state governor for the past two years with regard to incorporating online and mobile sports betting into state law but haven’t made any headway. Because of how difficult the Assembly is to convince and the fact that Governor Andrew Cuomo is so set against it due to various concerns over the state constitution, New York gamers haven’t had much luck with regard to a regulated online poker scene.

And the arrival of licensed sports betting causes another issue. Pretlow and Addabbo have placed a majority of their focus on that sector. In fact, they’ve pretty much put online poker to one side in favor of the sports betting industry, and that’s quite understandable when you consider what the predicted revenue is for such. It far outweighs any kind of expectation for online poker revenue, so why wouldn’t the former type of wagering become the prime focus of campaigners?

Addabbo has also been trying to push through certain new casino licenses for certain downstate properties within and around New York City. Because MGM holds a property in Yonkers, that would most certainly bring the brand into the conversation. Should that occur, it could represent a good moment for online poker to make its way into legislation as well even if only as a sort of sneak-through while nobody is watching. The year is still young though, and as we saw with Michigan at the end of 2019, anything is possible.

New York to Follow in Footsteps of Others?

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While New York hasn’t really been making much progress in terms of online poker, two states did proceed with legalizing it in 2019 – West Virginia and Michigan. This means that both locations are now able to provide their residents with legal online poker options.

West Virginia

West Virginia went ahead with passing its Lottery Interactive Wagering Act in March 2019. Through this, existing casinos in the state have the ability to expand their product range to now include both online casino and poker gaming. As it happens, that bill was forwarded on to Governor Jim Justice at the beginning of March, but he didn’t take any action on it one way or the other. Therefore, it passed into law following a 15-day period of zero activity from him.

With this new law, the West Virginia Lottery Commission has full responsibility over the online gambling industry of the state. Operators are able to apply for five-year licenses, which will cost an initial payment of $250,000. Renewals, which are also for five years, will have a lower cost of $100,00 while a tax of 15% will be taken from their gross revenue.

It is believed that an online gambling sector will be ready for operation in West Virginia later on in 2020. Officials within the state turned to Pennsylvania for some important advice regarding online poker’s setup there. Pennsylvania has the template that West Virginia would like to make use of, and following a meet-up with the Gaming Control Board there, The Lottery Director of The Mountain State, John Myers, said that it had given them a “little confidence” that things were moving in the right direction.


As far as Michigan is concerned, it didn’t actually look like things were going to go so smoothly in 2019 either. Back in October, the signs appeared fairly negative with regard to online poker because Governor Gretchen Whitmer had certain concerns over the proposed gambling bill. One of the major issues was that it didn’t seem to protect the Michigan School Aid Fund – something that Whitmer was keen to continue having funded.

Yet, by the time December had rolled around, things had already taken a turn for the better in The Wolverine State. Various wording and ideas within the Michigan Lawful Internet Gaming Act were altered so as to suit Whitmer’s own ideals, and this led to a package of bills being dropped on her desk on December 11. That was actually the very last day of the 2019 legislative session, and on Friday, Dec. 20, she signed all but one of the bills, making online poker legal within Michigan.

Given the necessity of the regulatory rules being drafted along with the time that it will take for the license application and approval processes, however, few expect Michigan online casino and poker to be ready before 2021.

Where to Go for NY Online Poker at the Moment

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Despite the fact that online poker hasn’t been specifically regulated in New York as yet, there are numerous possibilities available for gamers within The Empire State. You can learn more about the offshore poker rooms that continue to serve New Yorkers in our guide to playing internet poker in New York.

If you live somewhere else in the country, don't worry. We have composed an in-depth overview of the world of USA online poker, which you can peruse for information about the sites available, the history of the industry, and more. Another resource that we have prepared for your enlightenment is a page devoted to legal online poker court cases and statutes at both the federal and state levels.