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Heads-Up with Senator John Sabini

Tn_sabini03 Over the past two years, you’ve likely seen bars in your city hosting regular hold’em tournaments.  And these bars are packing ‘em in with  new (really bad) rounders vying for tabs, trips, and other assorted tchotchkes.

In most states (most recently Colorado), there's still some gray area as to the legality of these games.  But for bars finding the beauty of gray, poker has been a major boon for business.  Here in Atlanta, bars holding hold'em games during weeknights this year have been more than doubling revenue from comparative nights of year's past.

So for a place like New York City, where bars have lost business (and people are losing jobs) due to the smoking ban, finding a way to bring in more bank only makes sense.

Enter Senator John Sabini (Dem-NY).

In order to help generate revenue for bars in NYC, Senator Sabini introduced a bill late last year that would make small scale poker games legal.

Wicked Chops Poker talked to the state Senator about his poker proposition, why he introduced it, and where to find the best card room in the state these days.

Senator Sabini is a native of Jackson Heights in Queens, an ethnically diverse area.  He's the ranking minority member on the Racing, Gaming and Wagering committee.  As Senator Sabini told us, he introduced the poker bill because, "Lots of bars and nightclubs suffered from the smoking ban.  This was a good opportunity for them to gain revenue."

Senator Sabini grew up playing cards (although he says, “not so much now”), and he knows a good card room when he sees one.  However, his "goal isn't [to create establishments] like the Bike."  His bill wouldn't allow for prizes "over $100, that's the limit."   As Senator Sabini said, “…the pocket cam and reality shows made [the poker craze] possible," and his proposed bill would enable bars to "cash in on the craze.”

Unfortunately, his district's reaction to the bill so far has been, "slim to none."   The New York Times even dissed it in an article, calling it a "one house bill."

Of course, there's something to be said for the New York Times giving the bill some ink in the first place.  From our editorial perspective, it’s a no-brainer for the Times and Towerandcasino_1state legislatures to get behind the bill.  Consider the risk/reward ratio.  With a $100 cap on prizes and continued ban on house rakes, there is no clear and present danger of this bill leading to a rampant high-stakes gambling explosion in pubs and taverns across the state.  And as we’ve witnessed time and again, bars are realizing significant financial benefit from hosting hold’em tournaments.

Senator Sabini is not proposing turning bars across New York into a place like upstate hot-spot Turning Stone (pictured left), where he notes the “poker action…is off the [bleeping] wall" now that it’s “opened a second poker room.”  There is no gray area with his proposition.  If the bill gained momentum and passed, the financial benefit for bars in New York could be substantial.  The financial and moral risk for passing the bill is negligible.

Let’s just hope Senator Sabini’s colleagues and constituents realize this and ante up.

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Sabini should be NY's US Senator...


Long live Sabini!!!

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