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Gary Trask

Gary  Trask
Gary serves as Casino City's Editor in Chief and has worked as a writer and editor more than 25 years. The Boston native was a member of the Poker Hall of Fame's inaugural Media Committee.

Contact Gary at and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

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New York online poker bill passes Senate

15 Jun 2016

By Gary Trask
Despite fear from a chief opponent who said it would create the "next generation of zombies," a bill to regulate and legalize online poker in New York scored a huge victory on Tuesday, passing a Senate vote by a convincing 53-5 margin.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. John Bonacic (R-Mount Hope), would allow the state's 11 racetrack casinos to apply for 11 online poker licenses, good for 10 years and costing $10 million each.

But online poker players in the Empire State must be patient. The bill still has to pass the Assembly and receive a signature from Gov. Andrew Cuomo. And since the legislative session ends in two days, it is unlikely to see further advancement anytime soon.

Nonetheless, in a statement e-mailed to Casino City on Wednesday morning, Bonacic said he's "pleased that online gaming legislation has passed the Senate" because the bill "will create revenue for the state of New York, while also providing the necessary consumer protections for those who wish to play."

The bill also classifies online poker as a game of skill, which helps circumvent New York's constitution that prohibits the state from allowing gambling, except on state lotteries and at horse tracks and brick-and-mortar casinos.

"That's the most interesting aspect," said attorney Christopher Soriano, who focuses on all facets of the gaming industry as a partner at global law firm Duane Morris LLP. "Most states have looked at poker as a game of chance, but this legislation makes clear that poker is a game of skill and thus exempt from the New York penal law’s definition of illegal gambling. If this definition begins to take root in other states, it could lead to further expansion of poker."

Before Tuesday's vote, Bonacic, who told Time Warner Cable News last week that online poker was more likely to pass in New York in 2016 than daily fantasy sports, spoke on the Senate floor and explained that the bill had the support of the racinos and land-based casinos and that online gaming could generate between $33 million and $45 million in the first year.

But Bonacic got harsh pushback from Sen. Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan), who spoke for over a half-hour, saying that online gambling is "more addictive" than casino gambling and that since it is available 24-7 it will lead to "the next generation of zombies" – which, of course, riled up the pro-online-poker faction on Twitter.

Those who follow Krueger on Twitter weren't surprised by her comments, judging from this Tweet that was posted before the session began on Tuesday:

Despite the unlikely scenario in which the bill advances to the next step before the end of this week, Poker Players Alliance Executive Director John Pappas called for swift action on Tuesday night.

"With the state legislative session coming to an end this week, now is time for the Assembly to make iPoker regulation a priority," Pappas said in a press release. "The consumer case for Internet poker regulation is clear, plus it will raise millions in new revenue for the state without raising taxes. There is no other proposal before the legislature that can do this. Not acting on it would essentially amount to the legislature turning their back on consumer protections and new revenue without raising taxes."

The news from New York comes less than a week after a bill to regulate and legalize online poker in Michigan was approved by a Senate committee by an 8-1 vote.

Currently, only three U.S. states – Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware – offer regulated online gambling.
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