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Iowa Governor Has No Opinion on Internet Poker Bill

21 March 2011 by admin

Iowa-mapIowa Governor Terry Branstad isn’t exactly beloved in the gambling industry right now. Last month, he raised some eyebrows by proposing a major tax hike on the state’s casinos. His plan would raise the tax rate to 36%, a large jump from the current rate of 22-24%. When casino owners criticized the plan, Branstad called them greedy and said that they make more than enough money and can afford to pay out some more to help the state balance its budget. The progressive idea that the casinos make more money than they need and therefore should give more to others didn’t exactly go over well, especially coming from a Republican.

With that seemingly anti-casino stance, many wondered whether Governor Branstad would stand in the way of the legislature passing an online poker bill. On March 1, the Internet Poker Consumer Protection and Revenue Generation Act of 2011 cleared the Senate State Government Committee by a 9-6 vote. It is not known how much support the bill has in the rest of the legislature and whether it will be enough of a priority to pass this legislative session. Still, after New Jersey passed an online gambling bill only to see it conditionally vetoed by Governor Chris Christie, many are wondering if Branstad will do the same.

NewsleaderAt this point, it doesn’t seem that the governor has an opinion on the legislation. He is not a proponent, saying that he is “certainly not advocating it,” and that he thinks the state needs “to be very careful about expanding gambling.” While campaigning, Branstad had said that the casino market in Iowa – currently with 18 state-licensed casinos in addition to the tribal casinos – is saturated and that no more casinos are needed.

However, Governor Branstad also acknowledged that regulation of online poker may be necessary to protect players, since they are already playing online without the government overseeing the industry. The governor expressed concern for protecting the integrity of the state as well as preventing Iowa residents “from being defrauded by unscrupulous activities.”

When asked if he would veto the bill, Branstad gave a typical politician’s non-answer answer. “It’s usually my policy not to threaten veto on anything until I’ve seen it in its final form,” he said. Branstad also said that the prospect of intrastate online poker regulation in the state needs further review. “It’s a pretty significant issue and one that I think deserves to be very carefully studied.”

So basically Branstad managed to spend a press conference talking about online poker legislation without ever giving his opinion on online poker legislation. Man, this guy really is a good politician! I can see why Iowans keep getting tricked into voting for him. By not taking a side on the issue as it plays out around him, Branstad seems to be following the example set by Governor Christie, a colleague who just so happened to campaign for Branstad last year. Hopefully Branstad will not follow his pal’s lead if the poker bill ends up on his desk.

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