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Iowa’s Online Poker Bill Advances in Senate

3 March 2011 by admin

des-moines-capitol-building-iowa-usaMaybe it won’t be New Jersey, Florida or California after all. Could Iowa be the first U.S. state to regulate intrastate online gambling? The people of Iowa are now one step closer to having a regulated network of online poker rooms, as legislation passed an important committee vote and will advance to the full state Senate.

Wednesday, the online poker bill passed the Senate State Government Committee by a 9-6 vote. That is important because it not only advances the bill to the full Senate, but it means the bill meets Friday’s deadline that kills any bills not to clear at least one legislative step. The bill passed a subcommittee on Tuesday, March 1.

The bill would create an online poker network that is only available to Iowa residents who are at least 21 years of age. The existing brick and mortar casinos would set up online poker websites that can be accessed via password. To obtain a password, players would have to go to the land casinos, set up a special account, make a cash deposit, and agree to betting limits and limits to the amount of time they can play. The players would then be given the password, which they can use to visit the online poker room and play from home or from any computer in the state.

When the player’s account runs out, though, they would have to return to the land casino and make another cash deposit. The cash-only deposits for the online poker rooms are an attempt to combat problem gambling. Because players must have the funds available before playing, it is more difficult to spend money they can’t afford to lose. At the very least, players would not be able to use debt to gamble, unless they are able to obtain a loan through a different source. The land casinos will not be allowed to offer markers or any kind of loan to players for use at the online poker websites. The poker website hub would be regulated by the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission.

The legislation also tackles other gambling issues not related to online poker. It would also end the referendums held every eight years for casinos. Currently, every eight years, in counties where a casino or racetrack is located, a referendum is held to let voters decide if the casino operations can continue. Ending the referendums eliminates some of the uncertainty and enables the casinos and racetracks to exist indefinitely. Voters would still have the right to have a referendum, but one wouldn’t be required every eight years for the gambling business to continue.

Another provision in the bill deals with horse racing and a long-running dispute between horse breeders and the Prairie Meadows racetrack. The provision would establish how the purses are distributed between the breeds and would also establish the length of the racing season. If the legislation passes the state Senate, it would still have to pass the House. A similar bill failed in the House last year without a vote ever being held.

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