New York has been looking to get into the online poker game for a while now but it's been a long, protracted battle. For a while, it looked like a battle that poker players would never win but that changed last year. Senator John Bonacic has been one of the chief proponents of getting it legalized, and while he didn't get his S-3898 bill cleared in 2016 he has made some significant progress in the early parts of 2017.
The S-3898 bill put forth by Senator Bonacic basically stated that poker should be considered a game of skill, rather than a game of luck. That's an important distinction as it can change the verdict on the game from illegal to legal. The bill also features a streamlined process for going about getting an application to be an online poker operator, how a company would get their license approved, how much of it would go toward the state, and what would happen if those rules are broken.
On Valentine's Day, February 14, the bill was voted through unanimously by a score of 11-0 by the Racing, Gaming and Wagering Senate Committee (which is fronted by Senator Bonacic). That's significant news for those in the poker realm.
New York is looking to join Delaware, Nevada and their neighbors in New Jersey as states that have allowed online poker. If this were to happen, you can expect a sort of a network to be formed between the four states, allowing players from those places to be able to play in any of those states.
Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey are definitely looking to New York to get into the game because that would be a huge windfall for them. Delaware and Nevada have about three million people combined. New Jersey has about nine million people. New York has about 19 million people that live there. A chunk of those people will play online poker and that could be good for business in the other states who want access to New York's big crowds.
Pennsylvania and California are also looking to get into online poker, but New York could be the first domino to fall. Senator Boncic has worked hard on this bill, refining it each time it wasn't passed into something that he could take to the Senate Finance Committee. That's the next body of people that have to approve it. However, there is a good chance that the bill goes through that channel by the end of the year.
Even if it gets to that point, though, there are still some other hurdles. Most notably, there are early rumblings that the Trump administration is going to look into the nationwide idea of legalizing online poker. The state of New Jersey is urging the Trump administration not to support an online poker ban, but at this point it's anyone's guess which direction the White House will go. It has been an eventful first 100 days for the Trump administration, so they have bigger fish to fry at the current time, but they'll likely hear a lot from Sheldon Adelson, who put a lot of money into Trump's campaign and is likely to oppose this type of legalization.
As the CEO of Las Vegas Sands, Adelson is definitely against anything that would cut into people going to his casinos. In the meantime, New York has made some meaningful progress but there is still a long way to go in this battle.