Last Wednesday, another hearing was held in New York to discuss the regulation of online poker. Hosted by Senator John Bonacic, Chairman of the Senate Racing, Wagering and Gaming Committee, testimony was heard from both sides of the argument, rehashing the usual pros and cons of internet gambling regulation.
Sen. Bonacic [R-Middletown], the state’s most adamant crusader on the side of advocacy and personal sponsor of New York online poker bill S5302, was the first to speak. He did not push the issue as being essential for immediate action, but rather said he is still seeking information on the concept—hence the hearing. The senator said he is not ready to close the door on the possibility of authorizing a wider variety of online gambling activities, or increasing the number of eligible licensees.
Currently, Sen. Bonacic’s legislation calls for a maximum of 10 licenses to be awarded, each carrying a $10 million license fee and a 15% tax on gross gaming revenue. Only the games of “Texas Hold’em” and “Omaha Hold’em” would be redefined as “games of skill”, thus permissible for online play if the bill passes.
The next to speak was John Pappas, Executive Director of the Poker Players Alliance (PPA), an organization that has been fighting for rights and consumer protections for online poker players for years now. Pappas testified that regulation provides consistent and reliable monitoring to ensure the safety and security of players, while averting underage gambling and promoting responsibility.
“It’s unregulated now”, said Pappas, who told the assembly the sordid tale of Lock Poker, an offshore poker site once trusted by countless Americans. Failing to live up to payout commitments for near two years, Lock Poker finally shuttered its virtual doors, allegedly defaulting on millions of dollars’ worth of unpaid withdrawal requests.
New York Casinos will Support Online Poker
New York is currently preparing to launch three new land-based casinos; Rivers Casino in Schenectady County, Lago Casino in Seneca County and Montreign Casino in the Sullivan County. Pappas said that these three gambling establishments would surely desire a license to conduct online poker, thereby endorsing interactive and live play via tournaments and other dual-edged promotions.
Of course, not everyone in New York is acquiescent to regulation, including Interfaith Impact’s Executive Director, Robb Smith. His coalition is made up of a group of religious organizations who oppose gambling in general, and he was quick to point out that the assembly invited only advocates to attend the hearing, not opponents. Having failed to receive an invite himself, Smith delivered written testimony on Wednesday.
Smith argued that online poker regulation “would give every smartphone, home computer and laptop in New York state access to a casino or lottery-operated professional poker parlor… It has the potential to put a casino poker room in every home.”
However, there is no prohibition against playing online poker in New York; only laws the prevent operators from basing their operations in the Empire State. As such, hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers are already playing poker and casino games online by accessing unregulated offshore operators, where their finances and personal information may or may not be protected.