MGM Resorts Pushes for New York State Online Poker

on October 15, 2014
Let NY Play campaign

MGM is pushing for online poker in New York through a group known as Let NY Play. (Image: Let NY Play)

A New York State online poker campaign in the Empire State that has been floating around social media over the past few weeks is actually the work of casino superpower MGM Resorts International, a firm that has been pushing for Internet gaming in the state for much of the last year.

The New York Times reported on Monday that MGM was behind the campaign known as Let NY Play, which has gained a modest following in recent weeks on Facebook and Twitter.

The campaign has been actively supporting online poker in New York, usually with the simple message that if New Jersey residents can play online poker in a regulated environment, then New Yorkers should be able to do the same without leaving their home state.

“71% of New Yorkers agree that safe, regulated online poker should be legal,” says one tweet from the group. “Do you?”

“Retweet if you agree that you shouldn’t have to risk your cyber safety to play poker online,” requests another.

MGM Known to Support Online Gambling

It’s not a huge surprise that MGM turned out to be the group behind the campaign. They are one of the largest supporters of online gambling in the gaming industry, putting them in sharp opposition to companies like Sheldon Adelson‘s Las Vegas Sands or Wynn Resorts. MGM is also the half-owner of the Borgata casino in Atlantic City, which has been quite successful with its online gambling sites in New Jersey.

MGM has also been active in pushing for online poker in New York this year. The company commissioned a report that included analysis showing that New Yorkers wager as much as $110 million a year at unregulated, offshore online poker sites. That same report suggested that the state could earn between $50 million to $80 million in new tax revenues each year by legalizing and regulating online poker.

State Senator John Bonacic (R-Catskills) told MGM that he felt those numbers were unrealistic, at least right off the bat. But he was still one of the sponsors of a bill introduced earlier this year that would have regulated online poker in New York, a bill that MGM fully supported.

Poker-Only Most Realistic Proposal

While MGM would ultimately like to see other casinos games regulated as well (the Borgata operates both casino and poker sites, for instance), they felt that poker-only was the easier way to go in New York.

“The reality is that poker is the one whose business model is already established and the one that would be the most acceptable and appropriate, certainly from a political point of view,” MGM executive vice president Alan Feldman told the Times.

Even if that’s true, however, it will likely be some time before regulated online poker comes to New York. Bonacic reportedly told MGM officials as much earlier this year, and other legislators report little or no interest from their constituents when it comes to the issue. Right now, the Let NY Play Facebook page has about 5,000 likes, while their Twitter feed has only about 400 followers.

There’s also the ongoing casino expansion in New York, which may be seen as a more pressing issue for the gaming industry in the state. Officials are currently in the process of awarding four licenses for upstate casinos, with the results of that process expected later this year. Notably, MGM did not apply for a license in any upstate region.