Hot on the heels of the news that New Jersey won’t become the first state to regulate Internet gambling after all comes Iowa’s bid to take that honor for itself.
Thought to be all but kaput just a few weeks ago, Iowa’s new legislation to regulate Internet poker was re-introduced in late February and has already been approved by a Senate subcommittee. The bill is now heading to the full Senate.
The speed with which the bill is moving is a bit surprising: The measure was voted upon the same day debate opened, and before the day was done, it’d been approved by the committee by a 9 to 6 vote, reports the Chicago Tribune.
“That means it’s safe from Friday’s legislation-killing funnel deadline,” points out Jennifer Jacobs at the Des Moines Register.
The nuts and bolts
Under the bill, “Internet poker would be legalized but would be limited within Iowa and interstate online poker would continue to be banned,” explains Iowa’s KWQC. “Iowa gamblers could only access sites with a physical location in the state.”
“[The bill] provides Iowa with an adjustment (to state law) to recognize that technology is outstripping laws,” Senator Jeff Danielson, the bill’s main supporter, explained in the Tribune article.
Iowa’s Waterloo Daily Courier goes into more detail: “Senate Study Bill 1165 envisions an authorized online poker hub operator under the control of the state Racing and Gaming Commission that would contract with state-licenses casinos to operate affiliate online sites within a “closed loop” in Iowa for registered players at least 21 years of age.”
The Courier goes on to quote registered gambling lobbyist Ned Chiodo, who estimates that 150,000 Iowans play Internet poker “right now, every day, 24-7, illegally.” If regulated, Chiodo expects Iowa “would generate about $30 million to $35 million in tax revenue annually on the new online gaming option.”
Still not a sure thing
Iowa already embraces traditional gambling, as do most other states, with regulated horse and dog racing, a state lottery, and state-run land-based casinos already in place. One of the most controversial elements of this bill is that it would change the licensing procedure for existing land-based casinos.
Though it’s starting out fast, it still has a long road: The bill now faces full votes in the Senate and the House of Representatives, plus the governor’s signature, before it becomes law.
In addition, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have expressed concerns. Iowa State Senator Steve Sodders, a Democrat, feels that the law would be too easily abused.
“Once I have that code, hell, I can go anywhere. I could move to Illinois and gamble and they would never know,” Sodders told the Des Moines Register.
Meanwhile, Jack Ketterer, the state’s administrator for the Racing and Gaming Commission, said that, while there isn’t a blueprint for what lawmakers hope to do, “he expected the online activity envisioned in the bill could be accomplished,” the Courier article concludes.