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.
Last updated: March 17, 2023
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.
|New York Online Poker: Key Facts|
|State Population||19.7 Million|
|Has Legal Online Poker?||No|
|Bill Status||Legislation Introduced in 2023, Still Viable Through June 2024.|
|Potential Operators||BetMGM Poker, PokerStars US, WSOP US|
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 the NYC area. Others worry that existing commercial casinos could also be affected, including a powerful labor union for hotel and casino workers.
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).
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, online poker 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.
One important piece missing from A1380 is verbiage allowing New York to join a multi-state gaming compact for poker. 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.
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.
|Operator||Potential NY Partnership||Existing Market Position|
|PokerStars||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.|
|BetMGM Poker||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|
|WSOP||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|
|BetRivers||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 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 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 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.
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 in March 2023, when RSI emerged as a surprise bidder for an exclusive igaming contract in Delaware covering the state’s three racinos. 888 was first awarded the contract by the Delaware Lottery back in 2013 and has bid for the new contract, too.
Despite not having a live poker platform, RSI qualified as a vendor for the contract because it runs its online casino and sports betting platform in other markets. But it’s possible 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. It’s possible that RSI could launch online poker in New York under its BetRivers brand.
Although a solo launch of BetRivers Poker 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 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.
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 there are many reasons to be optimistic that legislation could finally win passage by June 2024.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 so far in 2023, but the legislation is still viable and can be considered again through June 2024.
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.
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.
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