Wednesday, June 19, 2024

New York Online Poker Bill Shelved for 2024? Maybe

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New York Online Poker Bill Shelved for 2024? Maybe
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“This is probably our last meeting for the year.”

Nine words. If you heard them anywhere, you might not think much of them. In some contexts, these could actually be comforting words to hear.

But if you’re a proponent of online poker in New York, these aren’t words you wanted to hear. They were uttered by Sen. Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) at the end of Tuesday’s meeting of the Senate Committee on Racing, Gaming, and Wagering, a panel that Addabbo chairs.

And those words were a real gut punch, too, considering that Addabbo introduced a bill just seven days earlier calling for the establishment of a regulated market for real money online poker in the Empire State.

There was enough time to add the bill to the agenda of Tuesday’s meeting. Senate rules governing the open meetings of standing committees (which includes the Senate Committee on Racing, Gaming, and Wagering), stipulate that:

Each chair of a standing committee shall to the extent practicable, no later than 3 p.m. the Thursday preceding the regular meeting, furnish to the conference leaders, and make available to each member of such committee, a copy of the agenda of such regular meeting together with a copy of the introducer’s memorandum for each bill listed on such agenda for such regular meeting.

All of which suggests that Addabbo had at least 48 hours last week to add his bill, S9226, to the agenda for Tuesday’s committee meeting.

To be clear, he didn’t have to. That’s because even though the New York State Legislature will recess on June 6, state law allows legislative leaders (like Addabbo) to call lawmakers back for a committee hearing. Since Addabbo is a committee chairman, he could potentially call for a Senate floor vote of S9226.

A vote would only need to take place before January 2025, when the current session ends. If S9226 hasn’t passed the legislature and been signed into law by that time, it will be a dead bill. Addabbo, or another supporter of expanded igaming in the Senate, would need to introduce a new bill at that point.

Addabbo could not be reached for comment by pokerfuse this week.

It’s Not What He Said, It’s How He Said It

Then again … there was something about the way Addabbo said those nine words. Fast forward to the last minute of Tuesday’s nearly 20-minute committee meeting, you will hear the Democrat from Queens put a bit of emphasis on the word “probably,” leaving the door cracked open for potentially calling another meeting before the end of the year.

“I want to say thank you to, obviously, my colleagues,” Addabbo said immediately after. “Thank you very much for your input, as we expand gaming and racing in our state — but in a safe way.”

Addabbo was addressing Sens. Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans), Pamela Helming (R-Canandaigua), Monica Martinez (D-Brentwood), and James Tedisco (R-Glenville). Together, the panel had just advanced nine gaming bills — just not S9226, which will remain with the 27 other bills that haven’t been taken up yet by the committee.

It’s quite possible that Addabbo and his counterpart, Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow (D-Mount Vernon), are running into the same obstacles that proponents of expanded igaming encountered in Maryland — specifically, skeptical lawmakers who think expanding igaming would create more problems than it’s worth, and powerful unions for hotel and casino workers that claim expanded igaming would cannibalize the gaming industry and lead to a loss of jobs.

On some levels, the fact that S9226 hasn’t been added to the committee’s agenda is a troubling sign. After all, online poker isn’t seen as being anywhere near as addictive as playing online slots, and it’s hard to imagine regulated real money online poker in New York taking away and jobs from land-based casinos.

Whether Addabbo plans to gavel his committee in between now and June 6, or sometime after that, remains to be seen. You could literally interpret the nine words he said about the matter, and how he said them, either way. But there’s no question that’s frustrating for online poker players in the Empire State.

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