Here is the time-line of events. The United States Department of Justice reverses their long-held opinion that all forms of online gambling are illegal in December of 2011, advising individual states to make that decision for themselves. In early 2012, Nevada becomes the historic first state to legalize online poker soon after that landmark decision, and they are followed up by both Delaware and New Jersey. Here in 2013, none of those states has yet to officially deal the first hand of poker online, but Nevada legislators recently announced that watershed event will happen this May.
There is no argument that the online gambling industry in the United States is a multibillion dollar entity. And for the first time since the DOJ reversal, one state has attached online gambling legalization to its annual budget proposal in the hopes of cashing in on that massive financial pool. New York legislators have included a provision to the 2013/2014 Big Apple budget that would clear the path for online poker in the Empire State. Current rumors have New York’s Senate Majority Coalition in favor of the proposition, and both Dean Skelos and Jeff Klein, leaders in the state Senate, signed off on the online poker budget rider.
Bill language very specifically dictates that the New York State Senate “supports authorizing and regulating internet gaming for games of skill” which include poker. The bill goes on to state that the proposal reflects “recent changes in the classification of these games.” The reversal by the US DOJ changed certain aspects of the 1961 Federal Wire Act, essentially stating that the law should apply only to sports betting and not to other forms of Internet based wagering. That wording by the DOJ in 2011 is the platform which Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey used to legalize online poker, and is the same basis for this New York state legislation.
And even if that legislation is stricken from the budget proposal, industry experts and political watchdogs in The Empire State believe that the issue of online poker would be re-addressed in some form. Early estimates are that New York could add at least an additional $100 million each year to their state coffers with the passage of legalized online poker. New York has been aggressively competing with other states in the land-based casino market, and online acceptance of Internet poker licensing in that state would help make New York more formidable in its overall casino picture.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo stated that it is his belief that brick-and-mortar casino expansion should roll out slowly and carefully over a period of years, to even include a New York City casino eventually. But passage of a statewide online poker piece of legislation would allow for millions of dollars in licensing and regulation fees to be accepted by the state immediately. With neighboring Pennsylvania recently capturing the title of second largest gambling market in the United States due to its rapid land-based casino expansion, New York would be wise to build their online poker presence before Pennsylvania as an effective countermeasure.