ALBANY, NY — New York State lawmakers approved a bill that clarifies the definition of gambling in the context of coin-operated amusement devices. The bill, introduced in the Senate, makes clear that coin-op games awarding an extra ball, free game or additional time does not constitute "something of value" in the same way it does in a gambling device.
The "free game" bill easily passed through both houses in June and is expected to reach Gov. David Paterson by the end of July. If the governor signs it into law, the New York trade will score a major victory.
By deleting language pertaining to bonuses awarded by amusement games from the definition of "something of value," the new bill actually amends penal law dating back to 1987. That law was intended to curtail gambling, but failed to make the distinction between coin-op amusements, which do not dispense money or coupons, and wagering devices. Rather, a free ball on a pin game or extra time on a videogame is earned by a player's skill.
According to Cary Kessler, counsel for the Amusement and Music Owners Association of New York, the New York industry has suffered significant losses over the past 20 years because the old law prohibits the sale and operation of certain types of amusement games that are permitted in most states. Operators report that they can add one or two more games to numerous locations if the penal law is changed. There are an estimated 25,000 locations in New York City alone.
AMOA-NY has spearheaded the new legislation through the efforts of Kessler and government affairs expert Bill Schnell. The association launched the "free game" campaign almost eight years ago. Recently, a letter-writing movement involving dozens of game manufacturers from around the country aided that effort. Factories wrote to the bill's sponsors, Senator John J. Flanagan (R) and Assemblyman Joseph R. Lentol (D), who also chairs the Committee on Codes, explaining how the industry and its customers would benefit by changing the 21-year-old discriminatory law.
Kessler said he expects the new bill to confront opposition from various law enforcement groups and is asking industry members nationwide to write Gov. Paterson. "Tell him you want this bill signed into law," he advised. "Explain how it is good for the industry and its customers, business in general and for the state of New York. Prior to 1987, these machines were prevalent in many venues and vendors experienced no problems with them."
Letters can be addressed to: Hon. David A. Paterson, Governor of the State of New York, State Capitol, Albany, NY 12224. Reference Bill 6440.
A year ago, AMOA-NY was successful in helping to change another antiquated law that stifled operators in New York City. As a result of that crusade, Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed into law a measure enacted by the City Council that increases the number of pool tables that can be installed in a location - from one to two - before it must apply for a billiard room license when more than one table is placed in an establishment. See story here.