Friday, May 24, 2024

New York Senator Pursues Incremental Online Gaming Strategy with Poker-Only Legislation

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In the realm of online gaming legislation, New York Senator Joseph Addabbo is recalibrating his approach. Faced with the challenge of garnering support for a comprehensive bill encompassing iGaming, online poker, and iLottery in 2023, Addabbo has pivoted to a more focused strategy with his latest proposal.

Addabbo’s earlier endeavor, SB8185 introduced in 2024, aimed to address the state’s burgeoning budget deficit by tapping into the potential of online gaming, proposing a 30% tax rate. However, encountering resistance, particularly concerning the inclusion of online casinos, Addabbo has opted for a more incremental strategy.

The senator’s latest offering, SB9226, hones in on online poker, deliberately excluding other forms of gaming. Filed with the Senate Gaming, Wagering, and Racing Committee, the bill tasks the New York Gaming Commission with formulating regulations. Addabbo’s decision to prioritize poker is underpinned by its popularity and the success of mobile sports betting in the state. According to Covers, the Senator contended: “The timing for iGaming is perfect… but poker is very popular, so why miss out on that segment?”

Efforts to legalize online casinos in New York City, often dubbed the “Big Apple,” have faltered in past endeavors within the state legislature. The newly proposed legislation, S9226, outlines provisions for the issuance of up to 10 online poker licenses by the state, each requiring a fee of $10 million. Under this proposal, revenue generated from online poker activities would face a 15% tax rate, representing a decrease compared to prior proposals advocated by Addabbo. According to the bill’s specifications, online poker would be formally categorized as a game of skill rather than one of chance.

Uncertain Future Ahead: 

Yet, the road ahead remains fraught with challenges. SB9226 mirrors Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow’s AB1380, emphasizing online poker. However, Pretlow’s previous attempts to advance similar legislation have encountered obstacles in the Assembly, casting doubt on the prospects of Addabbo’s bill.

The absence of revenue from online gaming in the state’s 2024 budget further underscores the uphill battle faced by proponents of broader legislation like SB8185. Governor Kathy Hochul‘s silence on the matter during the budget announcement signals the challenges ahead.

However, proponents remain undeterred by the hurdles. DraftKings CEO Jason Robins hints at an evolving landscape in the online casino industry, driven by the imperative for increased tax revenues post-COVID relief. Nonetheless, the future of online gaming in New York hangs in the balance, contingent on navigating legislative intricacies and regulatory hurdles.

Should the online poker bills advance through the Assembly and Senate, they will ultimately land on Governor Hochul’s desk for approval. With the imperative for generating tax revenue intensifying, proponents are poised to continue their legislative efforts, though the path forward remains uncertain.

In the evolving landscape of online gaming, Senator Addabbo’s pivot towards a poker-centric approach signifies a deliberate strategy aimed at navigating the complex terrain of legislative and regulatory frameworks. Whether this nuanced approach will pave the way for broader online gaming remains to be seen as stakeholders continue to navigate the intricate web of interests and challenges in the New York political landscape.

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