The New State Senate has approved a measure that would legalize online poker in the Empire State. While S-5032 sounds like a victory for the online gambling industry, regulated online gambling is still a long way from becoming a reality for New York State residents.

As it stands, S-5032 would allow the state to issue 11 online gambling licenses to the state’s 11 racetrack casinos.

The licenses would cost the racetrack casinos approximately $10 million, which would then be applied to help cover the state’s proposed 15% online poker tax. Each license would be valid for 10 years.

What makes S-5032 different from other online poker bills that are currently under consideration is that it doesn’t require the state to use online poker revenue to fund education. The State Assembly, however, is considering a nearly identical bill that earmarks at least part of that revenue for New York’s struggling public schools.

According to some Albany observers, the existence of two bills dooms both bills to fail. That didn’t stop MGM Resorts International, which clearly has an interest in New York, from issuing a statement praising the bill:

Creating a safe, regulated option for online poker players in New York would generate millions in new tax revenue that could be used for education and other critical investments. We applaud the Senate for passing this sensible legislation that will help protect New Yorkers who have for years played online poker on unprotected, off-shore poker websites that today operate with no regulation, fraud controls, or age restrictions.

If approved, legal online poker in New York would be a major boost to the embryonic US online poker market. With nearly 20 million residents, New York is the third most populated US State and would be the fourth state to regulate online poker.

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