Is 2020 the Year for New York’s Online Poker Bill?

It’s been a long seven years trying to get online poker in New York legalized, but 2020 could finally be the year it happens after a relevant bill from Sen. Joseph Addabbo appeared back on file for this year.

Lawmakers in the state have filed bills every single year since 2014 to try and get online poker accepted and legalized with no luck so far. West Virginia and Michigan managed to get their bills passed last year, which has given the Empire state renewed hope for 2020.

The current battle is all to do with S.18. It’s essentially an interactive poker bill that’s been written stating that poker should be declared a game of skill. This means that it would exclude poker from the list of illegal games of chance in New York. It’s been fine for years for land based casinos to enjoy poker but the current law doesn’t extend to online gambling.

Follow the New Jersey route

Just down the road from New York is the garden state of New Jersey (NJ), home to the iconic Atlantic City, which has some of the most famous poker rooms in the United States. It took nearly 40 years, but online gambling is now synonymous with the area.

Online poker providers in New Jersey have been thriving since Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill into law back in 2013 that allowed the popular card game to be played online legally. New Jersey followed Nevada and Delaware to become only the third US state to introduce legal and regulated online poker sites.

When it was finally legalized back in October 2013, five partnerships quickly emerged after a November rollout. These were:

  • 888 Holdings and Caesars Interactive
  • Virgin Casino and Tropicana
  • PokerStars are Resorts Digital Gaming
  • Betfair and Golden Nugget
  • PartyPoker and Borgata

PartyPoker had their legal issues at the start, which allowed the likes of Borgata and Caesars Interactive to succeed and take a huge chunk of the market share initially. Nowadays it’s the World Series of Poker (WSOP) and the 888 shared network leading the way.

What was also a great move for New Jersey back then was the three-state liquidity agreement, which meant that online poker players could compete with each other in all three states. Christie saw it as a fantastic opportunity at the time:

“New Jersey has been a pioneer in the development of authorized, regulated online gaming,” he said, “which has been a budding success since its launch in late 2013. Pooling players with Nevada and Delaware will enhance revenue growth, attract new customers, and create opportunities for players and internet gaming operators. This agreement marks the beginning of a new and exciting chapter for online gaming, and we look forward to working with our partners in Nevada and Delaware in this endeavor.”

Now is the Perfect Time

In this current business climate, now could be an ideal time for online poker in New York to hit the ground running.

If you look at New Jersey, they hit record revenue in April 2020 as Pokerstars became the first online poker network to break the $2m barrier in revenue for a single month. March was the previous record month with a high of £3.63m generated, but April blew that figure out of the water with a 42% increase to $5.15m.

Pokerstars NJ and WSOP NJ both eclipsed their record revenue totals in April:

  • PokerStars NJ – $2,066,293
  • WSOP NJ – $1,862,004

If you discard anything before Covid-19 came along, the record high for revenue in New Jersey was hit way back in January 2014, and many operators can see just how lucrative online poker in New York can be this year on the back of those stats.

It remains to be seen just how the bill will play out in 2020 in terms of legalization, but if it is passed, it will allow brands to form partnerships just like they did in New Jersey and enter the market to offer their services to millions of New Yorkers. However, the Empire State has seen it all before. Six times in fact, so you can forgive them if they’re feeling a little pessimistic around the success of Sen. Joseph Addabbo efforts this year.

For now at least, it’ll be a return to the Native American casinos for many Finger Lakes residents once normality resumes.