New York would legalize, license and tax Internet poker games under a proposal from a key state lawmaker but don’t look for the bill to pass anytime soon.
The legislation from Republican Sen. John Bonacic would allow the state to license 10 operators to offer virtual poker games. Operators would pay $10 million licensing fees and taxes equal to 15 percent of their gross revenues.
Bonacic’s proposal would allow only online poker, specifically Texas Hold ‘Em and other poker variations approved by state gambling regulators. Operators would be required to take steps to prevent anyone under age 21 from using their sites and provide resources for compulsive gamblers.
The bill has no companion legislation in the state Assembly, and Bonacic, who chairs the Senate Committee on Racing, Wagering and Gaming, said he doesn’t expect it to pass this year. He said he wants to understand how four privately owned casinos authorized by voters will change the state’s gambling market before legalizing online gambling. Nevertheless, he said New York needs to begin considering how to effectively regulate the burgeoning industry.
“I don’t intend to push this this year,” Bonacic said. “But we need to start a discussion.”
Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware allow some types of Internet gambling. Lawmakers in several other states are expected to consider legislation to legalize limited online gambling this year.
The question has divided the gambling industry, with some experts seeing virtual gambling as an opportunity and others as a threat to traditional casinos.
Billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson supports efforts to prohibit online gambling nationwide. Caesars Entertainment, which already offers virtual gambling in New Jersey and Nevada, and MGM both support Bonacic’s bill.
“New York would be an extraordinary market for this type of entertainment,” MGM Resorts International President Bill Hornbuckle said in a statement. “We are excited by the opportunity to offer online poker to New York players and will pursue it aggressively.”
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