This guide contains answers to Frequently Asked Questions related to a proposed New York online poker bill that would formally regulate internet poker in the Empire State.

It is designed to be a helpful resource for poker players, media outlets and industry representatives alike.

The section numbers referenced in green font are taken directly from NEW YORK SENATE BILL 3898.

AUTHOR CHANGELOG (APRIL 10TH, 2018): This FAQs guide also relates to NY Assembly Bill 5250, which is identical to Senate Bill 3898 and is supported by NY State Assemblyman Clyde Vanel, who says NY A5250 has a “good shot” at reaching the Assembly floor in June 2018.

New York Online Poker Bill S3898/A5250 FAQs

1. How would the New York online poker bill legalize internet poker in the Empire State?

New York S3898 would amend the state’s Penal Code along with the Racing, Pari-Mutuel Wagering and Breeding Law (PML) to form a special “game of skill” carve-out for real money online poker games in the Empire State. NY S3898 was introduced by New York State Senators John Bonacic (42nd District) and Tony Avella (11th District).

The proposed legislation exempts poker from being deemed a “game of chance,” and also grants lawmakers the right to consider whether poker is a skill-based game that “should fall outside the general definition of gambling.” (§ 1500: 1,2,3,4)

2. Which poker games would be authorized under the New York online poker bill?

Specifically Texas Hold’em and Omaha Hold’em, although regulators may also include other forms of poker on a case-by-case basis. (§ 1501: 1)

3. Who would be able to play real money online poker in New York if this legislation passes?

Only individuals age 21 and over who are physically located within the state’s borders — residents and tourists alike — would be able to participate. (§ 1501: 2)

However, S3898 leaves open the possibility that New York might form an agreement with other states (such as the compact between New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware) to combine player pools. (§ 1502: 10,11,12)

4. Does the New York poker bill include “bad actor” language that might exclude PokerStars?

Yes. Any asset related to operations that offered real money wagers to United States customers after December 31st, 2006 is considered a “covered asset.” (§ 1501: 5)

The New York State Gaming Commission is tasked with determining whether each potential operator is “suitable” for the market, and the “covered assets” clause is listed as one of the factors that can be considered by the Commission, although the relevancy of such language can be decided at regulators’ discretion. (§ 1502: 6)

5. Would online casino games be authorized if NY S3898 becomes law?

No, they would not. New York S3898 only deals with online poker. It does not include provisions to formally legalize online casino table games, online slots, or any other interactive “games of chance.” (§ 1502: 4)

6. Would the New York online poker bill allow licensees to form partnerships and offer skins?

Yes. The Commission may approve, at its own prerogative, “multiple interactive gaming platforms” for a single license holder, and licensees can form partnerships or joint ventures. (§ 1501: 11) (§ 1502: 5)

7. How much would a NY online poker license cost if S3898 becomes law?

The cost of a New York online poker license would be $10 million USD, payable in 60 monthly installments, to be earmarked towards corresponding taxes. Once the initial 60-month period has expired, any funds that were not used to satisfy those tax obligations will be absorbed by the Commission and considered to be part of the initial licensing fee. (§ 1502: 8)

John Bonacic New York Online Poker Bill

NY State Senator John Bonacic (Co-Sponsor of New York Online Poker Bill S3898)

8. How long would online poker licenses in New York be valid?

Online poker licenses would be valid for 10 years with a total of 11 licenses available. (§ 1502: 1) (§ 1502: 9)

9. What would be the tax rate for online poker games in New York?

Operators would be responsible for paying a 15% state tax on Gross Gaming Revenue (GGR). (§ 1505)

10. Which gambling establishments would be eligible to apply for a NY online poker license?

Existing tribal and commercial casinos located within the state of New York. (§ 1502: 2)

11. How long would it take the Commission to establish rules for online poker licensing?

If the New York online poker bill becomes law, the Commission would be tasked with establishing licensing guidelines and other regulations within 180 days. (§ 1502: 1)

After that, there is another six month time frame (minimum) in which the NY State Gaming Commission must wait before issuing licenses to operate online poker games. This clause is designed to “prevent early licensees from gaining an unfair competitive advantage.” (§ 1502: 3)

The legislation would also formally go into effect 180 days after it becomes law. (§ 1506 – § 5)

12. Does the New York online poker bill include language to deal with cheaters and bots?

Yes, although NY S3898 only mandates that online poker operators ensure “to a reasonable degree of certainty” that games are protected from cheaters, colluders, and prohibited software (bots). (§ 1503[d])

This language appears to acknowledge that an online poker room may not be capable of 100% safeguarding its games against all threats related to game integrity.

There is also language in the bill that leads one to presume that geo-location, Know Your Customer (KYC) and Anti-Money Laundering (AML) guidelines would be in place. (§ 1503[a][b][c])

Tony Avella New York online poker bill

NY State Senator Tony Avella (Co-Sponsor of New York Online Poker Bill S3898)

13. Would the New York online poker bill mandate that player funds be segregated?

Yes. NY S3898 calls for poker player funds to be segregated from licensee operating funds to protect patrons from “corporate insolvency, financial risk, or criminal or civil actions against” the operators. (§ 1503[f])

14. Would NY S3898 criminalize unlicensed operators that offer games to New York customers?

Yes. The New York online poker bill would amend the state’s Penal Law, and would make unlicensed operators liable for committing a criminal “gambling offense” if they offer their services to the New York market. This would apply even if said gambling sites pay corresponding taxes while operating illegally within the state.* (§ 1506 – §225.36)

* Please note that S3898 would not criminalize the act of playing on an unlicensed site, it would only make unlicensed operators criminally liable for their activities in New York.

15. Does NY S3898 address issues of compulsive and problem gambling?

Yes. New York online poker bill S3898 would require “appropriate safeguards to minimize compulsive gaming and to provide notice to participants of resources to help problem gamblers.” (§ 1503[e])
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DISCUSS NOW: Reddit Poker Discussion Thread NY A5250 (Apr 10, 2018)

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This article is funded directly by Part Time Poker as a service to all parties who are interested in online poker legislation in New York and other United States jurisdictions.

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