Monday, March 31, 2014

New York: The State of Online Poker – A Personal Perspective

News sources concerned with gambling issues announced over the weekend that a bill has been introduced into the New York State Senate to push for the legalization of online poker. According to sources (Chris Grove of the Online Poker Report @OPReport among the first to break the story) State Sen. John Bonacic (R-42nd District) introduced a bill that would amend the state’s gaming and racing regulations to allow for online poker games.

It’s about time! I’ve said this in other posts and I will continue to say it – New York has the aura of a front-runner but rarely deserves the title. As a life-long New Yorker, criticizing my state, I believe, is one of my rights and as far as gambling is concerned, New York is easily criticized.

Long the home of harness racing tracks, flats, simulcasting, and pari-mutuel betting, New York lags behind more future oriented states than most are aware of. New Yorkers sat back and watched helplessly while New Jersey became the first state on the Eastern seaboard to allow casino gambling. When Connecticut followed a few years later with one then two enormous Native American casinos, New York was clearly on the sidelines.

Lotteries notwithstanding, New York arrived very late at the gambling party. At this time there are Indian casinos in upstate New York and racinos scattered around the state. The Indian casinos offer a full array of casino type games including poker rooms in many of them. The racinos are restricted to electronic games so that slot machines rule the day with a small number of roulette, craps, and baccarat tables available for those not too wary of technology.

The racinos are located in or close to very populated areas of New York – the Empire City casino in Yonkers, minutes from New York City and Resorts World casino at Aqueduct Racetrack, a stone’s throw from JFK airport. The full service Indian casinos are located in parts of the state that are far from the large urban centers of New York and other states.

Last year the legislature and the public approved the establishment of four privately owned full service casinos in upstate semi-rural areas. Bids and proposals are being prepared and approvals are slated for this coming autumn. The rationale for placing these first four casinos away from any large urban area is the hope that their presence will stimulate economic development in those areas. I don’t believe that will come to pass. The driving distance to any of these new establishments will be at least the same as a jaunt to a venue in New Jersey, Connecticut, or Pennsylvania, a recent addition to the scene. Past experiences in other states indicate that many of the construction employees and permanent workers at these casinos will come from elsewhere rather than the immediate economically challenged areas in which they are likely to be built.

Online poker, along with a loosening of these short-sighted casino proposals, is a way to seriously impact the tax revenue that New York so sorely needs.  Morality aside, and it should be put aside since many agree it is a non-issue for the vast majority of players, the future health of government entities may depend largely on revenue garnered from entertainment vehicles like gambling. What better way to reach the entire state, and hopefully other states and countries as well eventually, with a quality online poker product that not only delights New Yorkers but attracts players from other states, than a knock-your-socks-off online poker site or two?

I’m on board and keeping my fingers crossed.

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