New York Online Poker: Could the Empire State finally get legal, regulated online poker?
Could the Empire State finally get legal, regulated online poker? It’s been a decade of futility, but the legislature has a bill it could pass between now and June 2024. Could we see PokerStars, BetMGM, or WSOP online poker sites in New York soon? In this guide, you’ll find everything you need to know about the state of gaming in the Empire State.
Online poker enthusiasts in the Empire State have been through a decade of disappointment, but the political landscape is moving in the right direction, and there is a sense of optimism that lawmakers will be able to pass a bill legalizing the vertical in the coming years.
New York launched online and retail sports betting in January 2022 to fantastic success — the state collected more than $709.2 million in tax revenue and $200 million in licensing fees during the first year of operation.
With NY sports betting proving to be a windfall, many in the New York State Legislature are eager to see how much revenue online poker (and casino gaming) could also generate.
Big-name operators like BetMGM, PokerStars, and WSOP will likely look to jump into the market, especially if the state also joins a multi-state gaming compact for online poker.
Watch this space for updates on the future of online poker in New York.
|Online Poker in New York
|Potential NY Poker Rooms
|Potential NY Tournaments
|Legal Age to Gamble
NEW YORK ONLINE POKER LATEST UPDATES
During the month of November, two operators currently live in New York for mobile sports betting — Fanatics and Resorts World Bet — move forward with online casino gaming in West Virginia and New Jersey, respectively. Success for either operator could affect their long-term plans in New York.
New York announces the launch of a new Voluntary Self-Exclusion (VSE) Program for individuals who think they may have a gambling problem. Those who self-exclude will be “barred from entering any gaming establishment or partaking in any gambling activity in New York State.”
In an interview with Poker Industry PRO, State Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) says he plans to introduce legislation to launch online poker and casino gaming sometime in December.
IS ONLINE POKER LEGAL IN NEW YORK?
No, real money online poker is not currently legal in New York, but it could be soon. Sports betting came to the Empire State in January 2022, but efforts to legalize online poker have fallen short since 2013. Eleven bills have been submitted in the last decade, but a new bill is expected in 2024.
NEW YORK ONLINE POKER: OVERVIEW
To be clear, there is opposition in some quarters to expanding igaming in the Empire State. Some lawmakers fret that online poker (and casino) could affect three future land-based casinos likely coming to NYC. Others worry that existing commercial casinos, including a powerful hotel and casino workers’ labor union, could also be affected.
None of those obstacles are deemed insurmountable. It’s very possible that online poker could be legalized once the dust settles with the siting of the three downstate casinos and after opponents realize that online poker will complement, not impact, the state’s land-based facilities.
The New York State Legislature meets biennially. Since the 2013-2014 legislative session, there have been 11 bills submitted that called for the legalization of online poker. None of the bills, including one from the current 2023-2024 session, made it out of committee.
New York would be a huge state for online poker. With 19.7 million residents, the Empire State is bigger than states currently with legal online poker, including Pennsylvania (13 million residents) and Michigan (10 million).
WHAT THE LATEST ONLINE POKER BILL PROPOSES
Although a new bill is currently in the works, the most recent online poker bill submitted in the Empire State was A1380. It was introduced in the state Assembly on January 17, but in mid-March, it was excluded from the state budget.
It should be noted that while A1380 wasn’t included in the budget, it’s still a viable piece of legislation. Since the legislature meets biennially, lawmakers could revisit the bill anytime they are in session through June 2023 and then again between January and June 2024.
Under A1380, real money online poker in NY would be taxed at 15%, and an operator would pay $10 million for an interactive gaming license with a ten-year term. Entities with either a Class III casino license or that are authorized to operate video lottery gaming would be eligible for a license.
The bill authorizes the New York State Gaming Commission (NYSGC) to issue up to 11 licenses for online poker.
New York has seven racinos and five commercial casinos, four of which are upstate. The state is currently in the process of citing three future downstate casinos in the New York City metropolitan area. The website 500 Nations lists eight Class III (aka Vegas-style) tribal casinos.
NYSGC would be tasked with promulgating rules for online poker and serving as the state regulator. The agency would also be allowed to add “any other poker game that the commission determines is the material equivalent of either of those, whether in a cash game or tournament.”
An important component of A1380 is that it calls for classifying poker games like Omaha Hold 'em and Texas Hold 'em as games of skill rather than games of luck. The bill calls for such games to be added to the list of authorized games in the state.
NY Online Poker Bill Summary
- Bill A1380 was first introduced to the state Assembly on January 17, 2023
- Online poker would be taxed at the rate of 15%
- Operators would pay $10,000,000 for a 10-year license
- The licensing process would be overseen by the New York State Gaming Commission (NYSGC)
- Poker variations like Omaha and Texas Hold’em would be classified as games of skill
- The bill does not mention multi-state poker Last verified: December 2023
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NO MENTION OF MULTI-STATE POKER IN LATEST BILL
One important piece missing from A1380 is verbiage allowing New York to join a multi-state gaming compact for poker — but such language will allegedly be included in a new bill for 2024, so keep watching this space for updates.
Membership in a compact is considered vital to the success of online poker — with shared liquidity, players can look forward to more prizes and larger prize pools.
Moving forward, the most likely option for New York would be for the state to join the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA), a compact for interstate online poker that includes Delaware, Michigan, Nevada, and neighboring New Jersey. Membership in MSIGA would allow New Yorkers to play against those running the same platform in other states.
New York would be a huge state for online poker if it is legalized. With 19.7 million residents, the Empire State is bigger than states currently with legal online poker, including Pennsylvania (13 million residents) and Michigan (10 million).
MSIGA states have a combined population of 23.5 million. If New York were to join, the compact’s combined population would mushroom to more than 43 million.
POKER SITES THAT COULD LAUNCH IN NEW YORK
If real money online poker is legalized in the Empire State, operators will likely need to apply for licensure through the NYSGC. We expect the US’s top three online poker operators — BetMGM Poker US, PokerStars US, and WSOP US — would be very interested in opening online poker rooms in the state.
BetMGM is currently live with online sports betting in New York. Meanwhile, FanDuel and PokerStars are both Flutter Entertainment brands, and Caesars owns WSOP. Each could expand into the online poker vertical with either a racino or a commercial or tribal casino as its gaming partner.
BetMGM, PokerStars, and WSOP would likely lobby New York lawmakers to ensure the state eventually joins a multi-state gaming compact like MSIGA to support online poker. There’s also a chance that other operators like BetRivers and SI Poker could be interested in launching in the state.
|Potential NY Partnership
|Existing Market Position
|FanDuel, its sister brand owned by Flutter Entertainment, runs a retail sportsbook at Tioga Downs Casino Resort, a racino that is also one of four commercial casinos in the state
|Already operates in MI, NJ, and PA and is the only site to connect its Michigan platform to form a multi-state network.
|Would likely partner with Empire City Casino, a racino in Yonkers owned by MGM Resorts International. MGM owns half of BetMGM
|Operates online poker in three US states and is looking to create a multi-state online poker network
|Caesars operates retail sportsbooks at three tribal casinos in the state: Point Place Casino, Turning Stone Resort Casino, and Yellow Brick Road Casino Casino & Sports Book. It is also interested in building a casino in New York City
|Top poker brand in the US, operates in four US states, and runs a three-state online poker network
|Rush Street Gaming — an affiliate of Rush Street Interactive (RSI), which owns BetRivers — owns and operates Rivers Casino & Resort Schenectady
|Planning an online poker launch through Run it Once Poker’s acquisition
PokerStars New York
PokerStars has been looking to capitalize on opportunities to beat its rivals. Case in point, PokerStars was the first operator to combine its player pools in Michigan and New Jersey, accomplishing the merger on January 1, 2023. That arguably led to its best month overall in New Jersey.
While PokerStars is the largest and best-known online poker operator globally and in the US — having launched in New Jersey in 2016, Pennsylvania in 2019, and Michigan in 2021 — being the first operator to launch in the Empire State would be icing on the cake for the Flutter Entertainment brand.
To do that, and if a future online poker bill requires it, PokerStars would likely look to FanDuel, a sister brand also owned by Flutter. FanDuel runs a retail sportsbook at Tioga Downs Resort, a commercial racino in Nichols.
BetMGM Poker New York
BetMGM currently runs an online sportsbook in New York, but the license isn’t tethered to a land-based property in the state. Online poker will likely not be tethered, so the operator will be looking to build its online poker credentials in part through its sports betting customers.
While BetMGM is also a well-known online poker brand in the US, currently live in Michigan, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, it is not engaged in multi-state poker. Instead, each state on the BetMGM Poker US Network functions as a state-specific network, where BetMGM shares liquidity with Borgata and partypoker regulated sites in the same states.
The operator, a joint venture between Entain and MGM Resorts International, would likely want to combine its player pools in Michigan and New Jersey before entertaining the idea of a launch in New York.
Should a future online poker bill require it, BetMGM would likely partner with Empire City Casino, a racino in Yonkers owned by MGM. The parent company doesn’t own any other gaming properties in the state.
WSOP New York
WSOP is another online poker brand that is well-known to players, especially since it owns the quintessential World Series of Poker, a tournament it has successfully run for more than five decades. It also currently has operations in Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.
If a future online poker bill requires an operator to partner with a land-based property, WSOP has three options available through its parent, Caesars Entertainment.
Caesars partners with tribal casinos all over the US, and New York is no exception. It operates retail sportsbooks at three tribal casinos in the Empire State: Point Place Casino in Bridgeport, Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, and Yellow Brick Road Casino & Sports Book in Chittenango.
The WSOP/888 US Network is currently the only tri-state network in the country, operating in three of the four member states in MSIGA. The WSOP US Network includes WSOP NJ, WSOP NV, and three racinos in Delaware running poker skins powered by 888.
WSOP will also likely seek approval from the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) to launch multi-state poker. With authorization, it will be able to combine its player pool in Michigan with the other three states and become the nation’s first four-state network.
BetRivers New York
Chicago-based Rush Street Interactive (RSI) has stated that it will eventually launch real money online poker in the US, but it has been opaque about its plans. Recently, the conventional thinking was that RSI was still several months, maybe even a year or more, away from rolling out an online poker product.
That all changed following two big developments in March 2023.
First, RSI emerged as a surprise bidder for an exclusive igaming contract covering the state’s three racinos in Delaware. Despite not having a live poker platform at the time, RSI qualified as a vendor for the contract because it runs its online casino and sports betting platform in other markets.
The bid fueled speculation that RSI bid on the contract because it is close to unveiling an online poker product — perhaps much closer than previously anticipated. RSI acquired the Run It Once Poker (RIO) platform in March 2022.
Second, Phil Galfond, the professional poker player and entrepreneur who founded RIO in 2018, tweeted information that suggests RSI plans to launch an online poker platform under the name Run It Once Poker, Powered by BetRivers.
Although a solo launch is possible, RSI could also wait for additional states to join MSIGA so it can make a big multi-state splash upon launch.
RSI has a land-based partner available if one is required. Rush Street Gaming, an RSI affiliate, owns and operates Rivers Casino & Resort Schenectady.
Other Potential Online Poker Operators in NY
Other operators are possible. Under one scenario, Playtech could launch its iPoker platform in the state, opening an opportunity for several European operators — including bet365, Betsafe, and Coolbet — to offer online poker in New York. But Playtech would first need a license from the NYSGC to move forward with such a plan.
Another possibility would be for SI Poker to launch in the Empire State. The platform doesn’t exist, but 888 and the parent company of Sports Illustrated (SI) have proposed developing SI-themed online poker, casino, and sports betting products. SI Casino made its debut in Michigan in February 2023.
SI Poker would run alongside WSOP, an 888 executive told Poker Industry PRO in an exclusive interview in July 2021.
Last verified: December 2023
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ONLINE POKER IN NEW YORK FAQ
Is online gambling legal in New York?
Yes, New York launched online sports betting in January 2022. The NYSGC issued nine licenses for mobile sports betting in November 2021. Lawmakers have recently proposed increasing the number of sportsbooks in the state to 16.
New York has had a state lottery since 1967, off-track betting since 1970, and racinos since 2004. Land-based casinos became legal in 2013.
What are New York’s poker laws?
Poker has been a legal table game at racinos in the state since 2004 and at land-based casinos since they became legal in 2013. But online poker (and casino gaming) are currently illegal in New York.
When will online poker be legal in New York?
Not until 2024 at the earliest; under that scenario, online poker rooms likely wouldn’t open until 2025.
The most recent bill called for legalizing online poker 180 days after final passage in the New York State Legislature. But the bill also gives the NYSGC an additional 180 days to promulgate rules for online poker, so operators presumably would not be able to launch for a full year after the poker bill is passed.
But online poker needs more support in the legislature and from Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul.
What about online casino gaming in New York?
Although land-based casino gaming became legal in 2013, online casino gaming is still illegal in NY. That said, there are reasons to be optimistic that online casinos will one day become legal in the Empire State.
For starters, eight of the nine operators are currently live in the state with mobile sports betting in NY and operate online casino platforms in other states. The eight are Bally Bet, BetMGM, BetRivers, Caesars, DraftKings, FanDuel, PointsBet, and WynnBET.
Land-based casinos once feared online casino gaming would impact their bottom line, but they have since evolved on the issue. Online gaming provides another source of revenue, but legalization also gives operators additional opportunities to engage with their customers.
Data from a 2022 study conducted by Spectrum Gaming Group in Indiana at the request of that state’s regulator show online casino gaming wouldn’t negatively impact revenue generated by the state’s land-based casinos.
What happens now?
Expanding igaming in New York has proven to be a difficult task. Online sports betting became legal in January 2022, but attempts at expansion fell short in the months that followed, with the latest effort foundering in March 2023 (along with a separate effort to legalize online poker).
Some of the resistance to expanding igaming involves uncertainty over the impact to tribal and commercial casinos already open in the state, as well as to the three commercial casinos planned for the NYC/downstate area.
But sports betting has poured money into the Empire State’s coffers. And while online poker won’t be a big moneymaker, online casino gaming absolutely will be. If tax revenue figures for 2023 are as eye-popping as they were for 2022 ($709.2 million), expect to see lawmakers warm up to the idea of expansion.
Bottom line: Yes, attempts to expand igaming have not been successful in 2023, but the legislation is still viable and can be considered again through June 2024.
Is PokerStars legal in New York?
No, in New York, PokerStars and the other top online poker operators in the US — BetMGM and WSOP — are not currently legal. But all three operators are expected to enter the market once an online poker bill becomes law.
Can I play at offshore online poker sites instead?
Since offshore poker sites do not offer the same consumer protection level as legal, regulated sites, they are not recommended. Players on offshore sites are at risk of identity theft because they are disclosing their financial and personal information. Federal officials have warned US citizens not to use offshore sites because they have no legal recourse to collect winnings owed to them.
Information on the dangers of US citizens gambling on illegal offshore sites and how to tell if a poker site is legal is available in this guide on Poker Shield.
Please play responsibly. If you or someone you know has a gambling problem and wants help, call 1-800 GAMBLER.
NEW YORK ONLINE POKER UPDATES
In a sign that PokerStars is interested in the Empire State, the operator welcomes Maria Konnikova back as its brand ambassador. The renowned New York Times best-selling author briefly served as brand ambassador to PokerStars from June 2018 to November 2019.
The New York State Legislature adjourns its session for 2023. Although efforts to expand igaming failed to gain traction, supporters vow to try again next year during the 2024 session.
State Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) says he’s ready to negotiate a deal to get online poker and casino gaming up and running in New York. But in an exclusive interview he says more of his colleagues need to be open to the idea.
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