Last month, a new Facebook page appeared called LetNYPlay. The narrative clearly states the intention of the page is to get online poker legalized and regulated in the state of New York. One would naturally assume that the rallying efforts were composed by an online poker advocacy group in the Empire State, but it didn’t take much investigating to reveal that the campaign was actually organized by none other than MGM Resorts International, headquartered in Las Vegas, Nevada.
“New Yorkers should be able to play online poker just like our friends in New Jersey and other states,” reads the opening line of the description for the new Facebook page. It goes on to encourage players to, “Follow this page if you are a New Yorker who is all in for legal, safe and secure online poker.” MGM made no effort to hide their involvement in page’s creation, clearly signing the description, “LetNYPlay is a project of MGM Resorts International”.
Why the Las Vegas based casino company is backing online poker regulation in New York, however, is a bit of a mystery. The Empire State is in the beginning stages of launching land-based casinos, and has four licenses up for grabs. But MGM, nor any of its subsidiaries, are not on the list of companies in contention for one of those licenses. Without a brick-and-mortar gaming establishment in New York, it’s doubtful that any future legislation for online poker would permit MGM to operate an iGaming website in the state.
Despite its lack of participation in the state, the reality of the matter is that MGM Resorts International has been heavily involved in the advocacy of online gambling laws in New York. An online poker bill was introduced earlier this year under the primary sponsorship of Republican State Senator John J. Bonacic. MGM Resorts was one of the most prominent backers of that legislation.
Sen. Bonacic met with representatives of MGM at that time, and while he agreed that online poker could be a significant source of income for New York, he also pointed out that it could take quite some time to get an online poker bill approved. In turn, MGM acquiesced that, if and when online poker does become legal in New York, participation from the community, and subsequently the tax revenue generated, will take time to reach an impactful stage. That sentiment was foreshadowed by the underwhelming productivity seen in New Jersey’s online gambling market, which launched in November of last year.
The most viable argument for online poker regulation in the Empire State was iterated on the LetNYPlay Facebook page, which has already received over 5,000 likes in the few weeks it’s been active. “In the eight years since Congress tried to stop illegal online poker in the US, New Yorkers have spent nearly a billion dollars on off-shore poker sites that put players’ personal information and safety at risk. Instead of sending our money to these illegal sites, New York should allow regulated online poker that protects players from cheating and scams.”
MGM Executive Vice President, Alan Feldman, said that online gambling “is here, and it’s been here for a very long time.” He cited studies that indicate millions of Americans are playing online poker and casino games, whether it’s legal to do so or not. But the argument for player protection will be a moot one for now, as per the statements of New York officials who have affirmed that the topic of online poker regulation will not surface on a serious scale until the state’s land-based casino industry is up and running smoothly.