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New York missed out on online poker yet again this year. However, the dream is not dead in the Empire State. There are two bills still floating around that deal with online poker. While that is good news, nothing significant has happened to these bills since 2018, so online poker seems to be on the backburner in New York, to say the least.
History of Online Poker
Online poker began back in the 1990s. In 1995 IRC Poker was created, the first modern online poker client. At the time, only play money was used to play online, making it more of a casual experience than an actual gambling experience. In 1998, real money poker online began to form. Planet Poker was the first online poker room to be created that same year. Online poker back then was nothing like it is today. Limit poker was the popular versions as opposed to the now immensely popular no-limit. Now players can play in hundreds of tournaments a day, sit-n-go, cash games, and even play a number of different game types (Hold’em, Omaha, Stud, Razz, etc.) Back in 1998, online poker just started as a single limit Hold’em cash game.
As the years went by, online poker started to expand to include some of the games we see today. Tournaments started to become popular and more people started to play online for real money, as opposed to play money. Then, in 2003, something happened that changed the future of online poker and online gaming as a whole. The “Moneymaker Effect” caused online poker to boom like nobody could have imagined. Chris Moneymaker, an average joe, won an entry to the 2003 World Series of Poker via an online satellite tournament. Moneymaker went on to win the WSOP tournament, which caused online poker to skyrocket. Now every regular guy in the world had the belief that he could be the next Chris Moneymaker.
Sure enough, in 2004, it happened. Greg Raymer won the 2004 WSOP tournament thanks to an online qualifying tournament. The field of the 2004 WSOP Main Event tripled form 2003 to 2004. Online poker continues to grow across the world.
2011 rolled around and everything came to a screeching halt. Online poker was as popular as ever and then Black Friday came and wiped the slate clean in the United States. The U.S. Department of Justice seized the domain names of PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and Absolute Poker, three of the biggest names in online poker.
After years of fines and legal issues, sites like PokerStars are back in operation in the U.S., this time legally. Currently, online poker is legal in New Jersey and Pennsylvania (Pennsylvania online poker has yet to launch). With sports betting being legalized across the country, online casinos and poker rooms are not far behind in some states. As online sports betting grows, we can expect the same from online poker.
Online Poker History in New York
The idea of legalized online poker in New York can go back as far as 2013. Lawmakers thought of it as a way to fund the state’s budget, but nothing ever really came of the idea at that time. In March of 2014, Senator John Bonacic introduced online poker bill S 6913. A few months later Assemblyman Gary Pretlow introduced a bill similar to Bonacics in the State Assembly. Nothing became of either bill. That following year in May of 2015, Bonacic introduced another sports betting bill, S 5302, similar to his first one. However, the legislature didn’t act on the bill and that was all for online poker in New York for 2015.
One reason online poker never gained much traction at this time was due to the fact that New York had just passed a gaming expansion that led to the four Upstate commercial casinos in New York. Politicians wanted to wait until everything was completed in that gaming expansion before taking on another one.
In 2016, progress started to be made in New York in regards to online poker. Bonacic got his only poker bill to go through the Senate with ease on a 53-5 vote towards the end of the legislative session. However, it ended right there as there was no support in Prelotw’s chamber for the bill. Pretlow said one issue was due to whether or not poker is a “game of skill”. Other issues included security and potential cheating.
Both Bonacic and Pretlow went back at it in 2017 by introducing online poker bills yet again. While Pretlow tried to push the issue in the Assembly, there was still no positive action. 2018 and 2019 were more of the same old story. Online poker failed both years as the legislature failed to act on two separate active bills, A 5250 and S 3898.
Future of Online Poker in New York
Now New York residents will have to wait at least another year and keep their fingers crossed that something finally happens in the legislature to push online poker. With the way Governor Andrew Cuomo is giving mobile sports betting a hard time with his “constitutional amendment” argument, online poker may be the least of the legislatures gambling concerns next session. New York’s efforts to become the sixth state (Delaware, Nevada, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia) to legalize online poker may be some time away from happening.
What Online Poker Could Look Like in New York
Assuming New York does eventually legalize online poker, what will it be like in New York? Based on neighboring Pennsylvania and New Jersey online poker, as well as how sports betting is shaping up in New York, we can make a few assumptions. Expect any online poker law to allow the state’s commercial casinos to have one “skin” available under their license. This means that each casino will only be able to launch one online poker app. As a result, tribal casinos would be able to offer online poker as well, per their compacts with the state. Based on companies that already have access to New York, we can expect to see World Series of Poker, Poker Stars, and bet36 all operating in New York. If and when New York does legalize online poker, you can expect a number of other major companies looking to find their way into the potentially massive New York market.