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Iowa Internet Poker Bill Could Be Dead

23 March 2011 by admin

Iowa-mapA bill in the Iowa legislature to regulate online poker at the intrastate level seemed to be gaining momentum and heading for a full floor vote in the House and Senate, but that momentum is now gone. The bill has stalled in the Senate and may soon die.

The bill, called the Iowa Internet Poker Consumer Protection and Revenue Generation Act of 2011, was approved by the Senate State Government Committee and a Ways and Means subcommittee. However, it must be approved by the full Ways and Means Committee by April 1 or the bill will be dead for the rest of the year. April 1 is a “funnel” deadline, which is a self-imposed deadline in the Iowa legislature. Bills that do not pass their relevant committees by that deadline are killed and cannot be resurrected until the following year.

With that deadline quickly approaching, it seems that the bill can’t survive a delay, but that is exactly what has happened. On Tuesday, senators pulled the legislation from the list of bills scheduled for a Ways and Means Committee vote. With it no longer on the schedule for a vote, it seems unlikely that it will receive a vote before the April 1 funnel deadline.

The bill was removed from the schedule because “people needed more time to work through it,” according to Joe Bolkcom (D), chairman of the committee. There are a number of issues that the senators have with the bill. Senator Mark Chelgren (R) says that the business model wouldn’t be profitable enough for the casinos and the online poker hub operator. Casinos don’t make as much money off of poker as off of other games and it is unknown how many Iowa online gamblers would switch from the websites they are currently visiting to a new one with fewer players sponsored by the state of Iowa.

Senator Roby Smith (D) said that the online poker hub couldn’t protect players from gambling while intoxicated. In brick and mortar casinos, service is refused to drunk players. Online, there is no protection for that. In addition, Smith said that it would be easy for a teenager to illegally play online poker using a password given to him by his 21-year-old brother. Proponents of the legislation, however, say that is the case currently with Iowans gambling at offshore websites.

Senator Randy Feenstra (R) was more blunt. “It’s a terrible, terrible bill,” he said. Feenstra believes that gambling is a major source of violence, child neglect, credit card abuse and other social problems. Since Iowa is already spending a lot of money combating those problems, it would be counterproductive to sponsor online poker, he reasons.

Another reason for concern among the Senate could be the recent attention given to a Des Moines Register poll saying that 73% of Iowans oppose online gambling. The poll was about all online gambling, whereas the bill in question only concerns online poker, but the numbers are still troubling. Combine that with the delay and the upcoming funnel deadline and it seems that the legislation has little chance of passing this year.

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