Iowa online gambling bill may be stalled
It’s a familiar story: Much like the situation that recently unfolded in New Jersey, new legislation to regulate online gambling in Iowa started off like a rocket, only to quickly cool down.
Now, the Iowa media is saying the bill may be “stalled”, noting that state lawmakers are worried about potential problem gambling difficulties they envision may be created by any new online gambling laws.
Iowa’s proposal relates only to online poker, but would still be revolutionary if it were to be passed — especially now that a number of U.S. states (Nevada, California, Florida, and New Jersey among them) are in a race to be the first to regulate online gambling (and, ideally, create an online gambling tech hub in their state in the process).
But after quick approval by a Senate committee, the bill now appears to lack political support.
“A bipartisan subcommittee of senators advanced Senate File 458 today, but later in the afternoon it was abruptly pulled from the list of bills scheduled for a Ways and Means Committee vote,” explains Jennifer Jacobs of the Des Moines Register.
“It’s a terrible, terrible bill,” said Republican Senator Randy Feenstra, per the Register article. “It’s the worst bill I’ve seen in this Legislature and I mean that. We’ve had all these social bills to address credit card abuses, violence, children’s neglect and abuse, and here’s the main issue why these things occur.”
Lobbyists, of course, disagree, arguing “that an estimated 150,000 Iowans are already illegally playing online poker through off-shore operators, depriving the state treasury of $30 million in annual gaming taxes,” the Register article continues. “They think most Iowans would opt to play poker in a regulated framework so they won’t be cheated out of their winnings.”
There’s still some support, however. Democratic Senator Dennis Black has said that the bill would be the first state gambling bill he ever officially supported. Fellow Democratic Senator Matt McCoy also supports the bill, but wants to amend it with an amendment to smoking in land-based casinos.
Republican governor non-committal
Meanwhile, Iowa’s Republican Governor, Terry Branstad, has expressed noncommittal support, indicating “he’s willing to consider allowing Internet gambling in Iowa,” reports another Des Moines Register article. “He’s couching his interest in further study as a way to protect Iowans.”
“As you know, the people in the state of Iowa have supported legal gaming,” Branstad said in the Register article. “However, there is a concern about illegal activity that’s going on and the fact that this is being done offshore … I want to make sure the integrity of the state is protected in the process and we certainly prevent our citizens from being defrauded by unscrupulous activities.”
Yet another Register article claims that Branstad won’t veto the bill should it be approved by lawmakers. “I’m certainly not advocating it,” the article quotes the governor. “I’ve just said I’m not going to make a decision on something until I see what its form might be. I guess my feeling is we need to be very careful about expanding gambling.”
Positive words? Maybe so, but when it comes down to it, it’s hard to predict where a Republican governor will come down on the online gambling issue when the heat is on — right, New Jersey?
Public opposed; media split
Meanwhile, a poll conducted by the Des Moines Register may reveal why politicians are backing off the bill. According to the poll, 73 percent of Iowans were recorded as opposing online gambling, with 23 percent supporting it — but the poll didn’t ask specifically about the bill, online Internet gambling in general. (Still, close enough, probably.)
Meanwhile, some newspapers are in favor of the legislation. “Believe me, fellow Iowans: This is a good thing,” writes Chris Steinke at the Daily Iowan. “Around $30 million to $35 million of tax revenue on an annual basis can fund a lot of state scholarships.”
“We’re not opposed to the idea; in fact, when all the facts are laid on the table, we think it could be a winner for the state and those who like to play the game,” adds the Globe Gazette in another editorial.
But the Poker Players Alliance (PPA) isn’t overtly supporting the bill, claiming its preference for a federal solution. “We would be very concerned about proposals that would limit play just to Iowa residents,” the PPA’s John Pappas told the Des Moines Register.
A longshot by all accounts
The end result is that new online gambling regulations in Iowa seem to be longshot at best — as they seem to be everywhere else in the U.S., except possibly Nevada. Still, it is interesting to watch how the debate on online gambling unfolds in all parts of the United States, as it continues to gain momentum and political support.