Legal

Could New York Beat Pennsylvania To Passing Online Poker Legislation?


New York will consider the possibility of online poker in the state at a hearing next month, according to a report at Gambling Compliance (paywall). State Senator John Bonacic, who is the chairman of the Senate Racing, Gaming, and Wagering Committee, is behind the hearing.

Does that mean Pennsylvania’s neighbor to the north will have iGaming before the Keystone State does? Probably not, although it’s not impossible.

What’s happening in Pennsylvania?

The short answer? Not much.

There are some in Pennsylvania who still believe that an online gambling measure could be a part of a final budget, as the impasse between Republicans and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf nears two months.

The small amount of optimism that that could happen is tempered by the fact that the issue of online gambling revenue hasn’t really entered talks, and is staying on the periphery as a possible way to bridge a gap between the two sides.

For now, a comprehensive gaming package — including internet gambling regulation — seems far more likely in 2016. Still, 2015 isn’t impossible.

What’s happening in New York?

New York doesn’t even have a new online poker bill yet, although it has in the past (including one earlier this year).

The hearing that Bonacic has scheduled is exploratory in nature, and is meant to simply bring gaming interests in the state together to talk about the prospects of iGaming.

According to USPoker.com, the sticking point in New York has been the fact that the bills have been poker-only, and have not included casino gaming:

Appearing like a far more conservative expansion of gambling, poker-only may seem like an easier sell to the legislature. That being said it also complicates matters.

Without iCasino to bolster revenue numbers, it will be difficult for operators to turn a profit offering online poker exclusively. Because of this, poker-only may frighten away potential stakeholders, particularly with the hefty $10 million licensing fee Bonacic has proposed.

That means this hearing will likely be key in determining if there is a future for online gambling in the Empire State. If progress can’t be made on fees — and on adding elements other than simply online poker — it’s hard to see a bill gaining traction this year or next.

Handicapping the race between PA and NY

The odds don’t favor either state getting an iGaming package passed this year. New York’s chances appear to be nearly zero for 2015, while Pennsylvania has a non-zero chance whose odds fluctuate, depending on who you listen to. The odds are certainly worse than a coin flip, and are probably pretty slim, all things considered.

For 2016? Pennsylvania would seem to be in the lead. While politicians were not unanimously behind online gambling in the state, there wasn’t a lot of outright opposition, either. The sticking points in the debate — such as implementation and the tax rate on gaming revenue — seem like they could be overcome with a little work.

Depsite the fact that New York has had two online poker bills before, the state has really made little progress toward online gaming regulation. USPoker speculates that the state is still “several years away” from getting iGaming legislation passed. Until the state changes the dynamic of the debate — i.e. putting online casino games into the mix — online poker could be stuck in the mud.

At the same time, September’s hearing in New York could be the vehicle to do just that, and would make an iGaming bill more likely in 2016.

Still, if you had to bet on one of the states passing a bill before the other, Pennsylvania would have to be in the lead.

Does it matter which state is first?

The potential impact of one state going live before the other would appear to be pretty minimal. Online poker and casino gaming would be offered on an intrastate basis — i.e., not across state lines.

New Jersey already has online gaming, and it appears to have a non-zero impact on traffic in physical poker rooms, at least in Pennsylvania. At the same time, online gaming is gaining traction as a way for brick and mortar casinos to retain and attract new customers. And as competition to keep players in state grows in the Mid-Atlantic corridor, having iGaming would be appear to be a smart move.

On the online poker front, if one state were to go live, and then join the interstate poker agreement (now only including Nevada and Delaware), it could convince the other state to get in the mix, for the possibilities of increased liquidity. But going from the current environment to being part of an interstate network takes several steps. And neither state is close enough for that to even be a possibility.

Photo by Donut~commonswiki used under license CC BY-SA 3.0.


Dustin Gouker has written extensively about sports and poker for more than 15 years, and has recently added Daily Fantasy Sports to his roster of topics. Also an avid poker player, Dustin has written for such publications as the D.C. Examiner and The Washington Post.