On May 13, 2015, New York State Senator John Bonacic introduced S-5302 (the “Bill”), which proposes to legalize certain forms of Internet poker games in the State of New York. This is the second time Senator Bonacic has introduced an online poker bill, but unlike the previous proposal, this Bill does not include a “bad actor” provision. Additionally, the Bill also seeks to redefine New York State’s legal definition of “game of chance,” adopting the “predominance test” that many other states apply.

What are the key provisions of the Bill?

New York State Online Poker Bill Key Provisions

The Bill proposes that any online poker venue must be licensed by the New York State Gaming Commission and Division of Gaming (the “Commission”). The Bill states that all licensees must pay a one-time fee of ten million dollars. Any such license will be effective for ten years from the date of issue. Within the first 180 days after the Bill becomes law, the Commission will authorize up to 10 licenses. Thereafter, the Commission must also promulgate regulations to implement online poker in New York State. The Commission can issue further licenses no sooner than 180 days after implementing regulations are established. Please note that the Bill will make it unlawful to operate or offer online poker gambling in New York State without a license.

New York State Online Poker Bill Seeks to Redefine “Game of Chance”

The scope of a state’s gambling regulations typically turns on the “game of chance/game of skill” definition. The Bill makes clear in its preamble that in New York State, “[a] contest of chance is defined as any contest, game, gaming scheme or gaming device in which the outcome depends in a material degree upon an element of chance, notwithstanding that skill of the contestants may also be a factor therein.” The Bill proposes amending this definition to “any contest, game, gaming scheme or gaming device in which the outcome depends [in a material degree] PREDOMINANTLY upon an element of chance, notwithstanding that skill of the contestants may also be a factor therein.” This shift in language may open the door for other forms of online gambling to become legal in the State of New York.

What Does the Future of Online Poker in New York State Hold?

Although the Bill was introduced just one month before the current New York State legislative session concludes, bills introduced now are permitted to carry over into the next legislative session. We have previously blogged about the efforts to legalize fantasy sports gambling in other jurisdictions. As in those instances, we will continue to monitor and report on the progress of the Bill as it makes its way through the New York State legislature.