Online poker players are well aware of the fact that several US states, such as California, Illinois, Iowa, and Texas, introduced bills to legalize online poker within their borders, but that these bills were unsuccessful. Last year, New York had made a similar attempt, but the bill simply failed to get attention during the legislative session. However, this does not mean that online poker is dead in New York.
Last month, Senator John Bonacic of New York introduced an online poker bill, the pros and cons of which will be first discussed by the Racing, Gaming, and Wagering Committee. Once the committee approves it, the bill will have to get the Senate majority vote.
Bonacic’s bill gives a clear definition of the term “Internet Poker,” stating that poker is not a luck-based, but a skill-based game. At this point, players have to remember that the federal Unlawful Interne Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), which was passed in 2006, applies only to luck-based games. The US Supreme Court has not yet decided whether poker is to be legally considered a chance-based game.
If this bill is passed into law, gambling operators will have to pay a licensing fee of $10 million to get the initial license to operate online gambling businesses within the borders of New York. Licensed operators will also have to pay annual taxes of 15 percent of their gambling revenue. The bill also includes a bad actor clause, which will prevent operators who illegally accepted bets from US citizens after the passage of the UIGEA in 2006 from submitting an application for a license. The bill also includes provisions for the creation of interstate online gambling compacts.
Currently, the state of New York is in the process of licensing four brand new land-based casinos within its borders. The licensing fee will be in the range of $20 million to $70 million, based on location. Three gambling companies have already submitted applications for the same.
Gambling operators who are interested in establishing a land casino in New York are required to submit their applications for licenses before the 30th of June. The New York Gaming Facility Location Board will hold a conference at the end of April for all those who have applied.
All eyes are now on New York, and the online poker gaming community as well as gambling lawyers are eager to know if the state will ultimately legalize the game.