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Poll: Iowans Oppose Internet Gambling

22 March 2011 by admin

Iowa-mapAs outlined in yesterday’s blog, we shared how Iowa Governor Terry Branstad is being noncommittal regarding the online poker bill making its way through the state legislature. The bill, the Internet Poker Consumer Protection and Revenue Generation Act of 2011, would regulate intrastate online poker but would require cash deposits at brick and mortar casinos to eliminate the possibility of players gambling with debt.

Governor Branstad, who says that the casino industry in the state is already at the saturation point, said that he won’t threaten a veto and won’t have an opinion on the bill until it’s complete (since it will likely go through many revisions between now and when it reaches his desk, if it does). By being noncommittal, Branstad is mirroring the position taken by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, whose opinion on the intrastate online gambling bill was largely unknown until right about the time he vetoed it. When conditionally vetoing the bill, Christie cited concerns that it violated existing state law and the state constitution. In the back of his mind, though, I’m sure a recent poll by Fairleigh Dickinson University showing that 67% of Garden State residents oppose online gambling also weighed heavily.

As the parallels become clearer, the prospects for intrastate online poker in Iowa become weaker. While Branstad wants to protect Iowa residents from “unscrupulous” poker rooms, he also isn’t sure that online poker in the state is wise from a competitive market standpoint. There are already 18 state-licensed casinos in addition to the tribal casinos. If Branstad is feeling pulled in both directions on the issue, the tipping point may come from a poll conducted last month by the Des Moines Register.

The poll showed that 73% of Iowans oppose the state legalizing and regulating online gambling. Only 23% of respondents are in favor of it, with 4% unsure. It should be noted that the poll asked them about online gambling, whereas the legislation only concerns online poker and not any other gambling games. Still, the results are surprising and not the least bit encouraging.

Those who support online gambling regulation stated that the wagering is already taking place anyway and that the state needs the additional revenue. Opponents worried about gambling addiction and whether poker websites could adequately block minors from playing.

Like with the poll of New Jersey residents, this poll showed virtually no statistical difference between the opinions of Republicans and Democrats. The biggest divide is by age group, with younger people more accepting of online poker, which makes sense, because younger people are more comfortable with internet technology. With respondents aged 18-34, 61% oppose online gambling. That number jumps to 76% for residents between ages 35 and 54 and 80% for those aged 65 or older. Men were also more accepting of online gambling regulation, with 65% of men opposing it, compared to 81% of women.

The Des Moines Register poll was conducted via telephone, polling 800 residents by randomly selecting phone numbers. The margin of error for the poll is listed at 3.5%. The responses were also weighted by age to reflect the population based on recent census data.

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