New York Legislators Leave Online Poker Out Of The State Budget For The Third Year Running
New York’s erstwhile governor Andrew Cuomo and the Empire State’s legislators successfully passed a $168 billion budget, but there isn’t a dime in the stack coming from online poker.
That news comes as a blow to the nascent internet gambling industry that was hoping for a change of heart among the now infamously anti-internet gambling lawmakers in the lower house of the state legislature. Those hopes turned out to be unfounded as the New York Assembly members for the third straight year declined to put online poker revenues on the budget. What may even add insult to injury is the fact that, despite the Senate approving a budget bill that included revenues from online poker at each of the past three legislative sessions, but lawmakers in the lower house haven’t so much as voted on it, much less voted against the measure.
Similarly, Gov. Cuomo has said that, should the Assembly members eventually decide to pass a budget bill that includes internet poker, he will simply use his veto power against it. All in all it’s pretty clear that support for online poker won’t be coming from either the governor’s office nor the lower house of the legislature, but that could change if – as some market analysts expect – internet gambling in a general sense is included as rider with sports betting legislation. New York appears primed to pass a law that would make wagering on sporting events legal in the Empire State, and part of the bill being considered in the Senate, that being S 7900, specifically allows residents and visitors to use online betting platforms and mobile sports betting apps on their smartphones.
However, it is worth mentioning that all that depends on the answer to one crucial question: will the U.S. Supreme Court declare the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA) unconstitutional? The congressional delegation from nearby New Jersey – the home of the second biggest gambling market in the nation and the most profitable by far in the eastern half of the United States – has contended for years that PASPA violates the Equal Sovereignty doctrine contained in the theory of States’ Rights, as articulated by the 10th Amendment. If the Garden State’s position is upheld by the highest court in the land, then sports gambling could become widely legal around the country virtually overnight, and with all prohibitions against the practice of sports betting lifted, New York would be well positioned to take advantage of it.
Due to the frequent cross pollination between casino gambling and sports betting at brick and mortar gambling facilities, it was only a natural expression of this phenomenon when the same proved to be true of the online gambling market that emerged in the mid to late 1990s. However, federal laws like PASPA and other subsequent prohibitions from the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA) effectively killed that industry. Nevertheless, if PASPA were either declared unconstitutional and stricken from the federal rolls by the Supreme Court then it would likely only be a matter of time before other forms of online gambling like internet poker would be back on the table as well.
The sports betting industry is currently valued at an estimated $150 billion to $250 billion in annual handle, and states like New York are keenly eyeing the Supreme Court’s decision with the aim of grabbing a slice of that very appetizing pie to pad out the public coffers. With tens if not hundreds of millions in taxable revenues at stake just on the sports betting side, the Empire State’s legislature and the governor’s office will perhaps more closely reconsider their collective position on internet poker in the meantime. Whatever happens, it seems like sports betting in New York, online poker and other forms of gambling on the internet are here to stay, it just remains a question of whether or not the states have the political will to get in on the action.
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