A bill to legalize online poker in New York has been filed by J. Gary Pretlow as further amendments to the state’s gambling laws are sought in 2023.
HB1380 seeks to reclassify certain poker games as games of skill rather than games of chance, thereby making them legal across the Empire State.
The bill seeks to amend to the racing, pari-mutuel wagering and breeding laws to classify both Texas Hold’em and Omaha as games of skill, citing that ‘courts have found that where a contest pits the skill levels of the players against each other, those games are games of skill and not games of chance’.
HB1380 also notes that the importance of the internet in modern culture means that players can find illegal ways of playing poker online, and that there should be ‘regulatory oversight to safeguard the integrity of the games and participants’.
Under the bill’s provisions, the New York State Gaming Commission would be given regulatory oversight of online poker from 180 days of the bill becoming law, with 11 licenses available to organizations that already hold class III gaming licenses as well as a VLT license.
Further, all license holders would be subject to a one-time fee of $10m, payable to the gaming commission over a maximum of 60 months.
The bill also imposes a tax rate of 15% on all GGR made from online poker operators, which will be used to top up the state lottery fund.
Attempts have been made in the past to legalize online poker in New York, with little impact.
HB1380 bears similarities with a bill introduced by Senator Joseph Addabbo in January 2019, which also sought to have 11 licensees across Class III licensees and VLT-approved venues.
Ultimately the bill failed to pass the house, just like another bill introduced by Sen Addabbo in 2021 which aimed to legalize online poker and online casino.
Whether this bill introduced by Pretlow has the support to pass through the legislative process remains to be seen, but after one year of legal online sports betting yielding record taxes, it may be more likely than in the past.
This bill has come at a time when lawmakers in the Empire State are trying to amend the state’s sports betting laws to offer tax relief to operators who, so far, have paid 51% tax on GGR.
Proposals would see the tax burden of operators decrease to either 50% or 25% depending on certain conditions being met.