Can you play online poker in New York?
April 15th, 2011 marked the end of regulated online poker in America. That date, known as Black Friday in the poker community, marked the end of the poker boom. It did not mark the end of online poker in America. Sites serving a US audience exist, aided by the advent of Bitcoin Poker or using the traditional methods of third party payment processors to get player funds to and from the sites which exist in a legal grey area.
Online poker is banned in the US as a game of chance.
It is understood by the legal system that although some games of chance have an element of skill involved, if the skill edge cannot exceed the edge of the house then the element of skill is unable to change the longterm outcome of the game into positive expected value. These games, such as craps and more contentiously, blackjack, are considered games of chance.
Will online poker be legalized in New York?
The winds of change are blowing in New York. Senate Bill S3898, proposed by Senator John J. Bonanic in January 27th, 2017 has now been advanced to a third reading in assembly. May 9th, 2017 had the bill pass the Finance Committee Vote with 27 for and 9 against.
The new bill states that when a “contest pits the skill levels of the players against each other, New York courts have found a game to be one of skill rather than chance.”
The bill would require new purveyors of online poker in New York to firstly pay a licensing fee of ten million dollars. This is in addition to the longterm revenue implications of regulated gambling websites as opposed to foreign, under the radar online gambling sites.
While the bill has passed the first rounds, it is far from becoming legislation. In fact, a similar bill last year made its way through the Senate, only to fail at the Assembly level.
J. Gary Pretlow, chair of the Assembly Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee holds the power once the bill reaches his sphere of influence. He may have a complete misunderstanding of online poker, claiming that it is a game of chance due to the ability to change wager sizing’s versus sports betting which is considered to him a game of skill due to paying a set fee which remains unchanged (is he in favor of non-rebuy MTTs only by this logic?). However, it is also possible that these excuses are used to hide true motives behind allowing online poker.
It is a gamble whether online poker will be legalized in New York before the end of session in late June. For those who are interested in online poker in the US and the state of legalization in the nation, please find more information at the Poker Players Alliance, a non-profit dedicated to legalizing online poker in the US.