‘Poker issue’ resurfaces as New York Assemblyman pushes for bill

Friday, Aug 26, 2016 12:59

For the third consecutive year, New York Assemblyman Gary Pretlow has questioned the classification of poker by lawmakers. This comes as a surprise, given that with the Presidential elections 2016, most politicians are addressing topics, including the economy and global warming, which they believe will see them gain votes.

Pretlow reinstated AB9049, a bill which states that certain interactive poker games should be “considered to be games of skill rather than games of luck.”
The Assemblyman favours an approach, whereby companies, such as iPoker, would set a standard to protect consumers and combat compulsive gaming. Pretlow, speak at the Assembly, stated that, “in addition, this legislation would create additional revenue for the State of New York by clearly defining certain variants of poker, ‘Omaha Hold’em’ and Texas ‘Hold’em,’ as games of skill and thus allowing licensed interactive gaming operators to offer these games to the public.”

This viewpoint comes in light of recent debates concerning Daily Fantasy Sports websites. Several States, including New York, argued that these games are not games of skill but games of chance. This classification results in providers requiring regulation, and paying the appropriate gaming taxes.

A fierce critic of Pretlow’s is New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. Schneiderman is legally pursuing companies such as FanDuel and Draft King. For each violation in the state, these companies would have to pay $5,000. A combined fine is expected to amount to several billion.

DraftKings and FanDuel are operating illegal sports betting websites under New York law, causing the same kinds of social and economic harms as other forms of illegal gambling,” stated the Attorney General in a statement.

If Pretlow can successfully argue that online poker falls under the description, proposed in bill AB9049, Daily Fantasy Sports websites may be strengthened in their battle. Currently, however, the probability of New York seeing this scenario unfold is unlikely.

In past years, support from Pretlow’s assembly colleagues was weak, and Schneiderman is experiencing much greater supporters on his attitude toward DraftKing and FanDuel than Pretlow is. Furthermore, the upcoming elections will contribute to politicians increasingly addressing issues that directly affect people in the state, such as the welfare policy. Pretlow, however, could further his cause, if he can convincingly argue that operators can contribute to state income without neglecting social responsibilities. If Schneiderman is successful, both operators will no longer provide games to state residents. Pretlow suggests charging Daily Fantasy Sports websites a one-time fee of $10 million and taxing gaming operators at a 15 percent gross rate. The latter results in a continuous stream of income for New York state, and, as some supporters argue much greater accountability and transparency.