What the senator said on DFS, poker
Sen. John Bonacic, the chair of the Racing, Gaming, and Wagering committee, did an interview with Time Warner Cable News on Monday. In it, he spoke at length about two different gaming bills in front of the legislature.
When asked whether a bill regulating online poker or a bill regulating DFS — both authored by him — had a better shot at becoming law, he said “online poker” without hesitation.
You can see the entire interview here.
That’s a drastically different picture than Assemblymember Gary Pretlow — Bonacic’s counterpart and author of bills in that chamber — painted in April, saying online poker’s odds were 100-to-1 or even a 1,000-to-1 to reach the Assembly floor. At that time, and two weeks ago, Pretlow was extremely optimistic about his DFS bill.
More from Bonacic on DFS
Bonacic was actually bullish on both pieces of legislation, but indicated that legislation on online poker was more “settled.” He also advocated for online poker as a meaningful revenue producer for the state, while DFS would only generate about $5 million in revenue, in a top-end projection.
“I am not saying that, you know, fantasy sports is in danger,” Bonacic said in the interview. “There is still a lot of pressure and a lot of arguments to prevent the bill, so we have to get through a lot of smoke first, and an education process, for both houses to get it done.”
That opposition and some stumbling blocks have come from a number of places:
- The land-based casino industry wants DFS to be tied to the current gaming license regime in the state.
- Lawmakers and others have argued against it, both on behalf of state’s gaming interests and on moral grounds.
- Some interests want DFS revenue to go to education.
- A poll commissioned by the fantasy sports industry indicated support for DFS legislation, while a Siena University poll found a higher rate of opposition.
Online poker, meanwhile, has the full-fledged support of the casino industry. Online poker, in terms of publicly known opposition, has no meaningful road blocks.
Where the two bills stand
Right now, DFS legislation is actually a little ahead of the online poker bill:
- Online poker is set to be considered by the full Senate floor, but no action, other than introduction, has taken place on the Assembly side.
- DFS legislation has passed two committee votes in the Assembly and one in the Senate, but has not reached the floor of either. The next Senate committee vote is to be determined.
But, as Bonacic pointed out, his handicapping of the situation relates to how the bills are positioned. The DFS bills from Pretlow and Bonacic currently do not concur, but the poker bills do.
The sticking point on the DFS bill?
Bonacic indicated that his staff and Pretlow’s met on Friday and that “negotiations are fluid.”
Bonacic said he believes that the DFS bill has to have a “provision that says DFS is a game of skill, not a game of chance,” in order to avoid issues with the state penal code and constitution. Bonacic indicated he had run his legislation past Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who apparently said he would be OK with the bill as written.
Bonacic said if the Assembly did not adopt such language, it would be a “non-starter.”
The legislature is working to get the DFS bill done in advance of a June 16 adjournment. If it doesn’t, a settlement between Schneiderman and top DFS operators DraftKings and FanDuel will send the issue of the industry’s legality back to the courts.
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