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IOWA CONSIDERS DRAFT ONLINE POKER BILL
Posted 2/25/11 : US state may permit intrastate online poker soon
The US state of Iowa has joined California, New Jersey and Florida in considering legislation that proposes the intrastate legalisation of online poker.
The Des Moines Register reports that the draft bill will almost certainly attract controversy from anti-gambling elements in the Legislature, but the indications at present are that the concept has support and could help resolve both political and financial problems.
State Senator Jeff Danielson told the newspaper that the bill could create a "win-win" for both gambling and non-gambling Iowans, presenting as it does a mix of gambling policies.
The bill proposes that state-licensed land casinos may open online poker operations for Iowans aged 21 years or older. Pre-approved players would put cash into special accounts, set maximum limits for bets and length of play, then log on to a password-protected website to play cards at virtual poker tables.
Proponents of the new bill are already lobbying in the state Legislature, pointing out that internet poker on offshore websites is already rampant, and that by legalising the pastime the lawmakers will ensure that Iowans are properly protected and get fair games...and the state can generate additional tax revenues.
"What is driving this is the recognition that you have an existing activity that's already taking place in an unregulated environment, and the revenue is all flowing overseas," said Kirk Uhler, vice president of government affairs for U.S. Digital Gaming, a California company that would seek to be the operator of the state's online poker network if it were approved.
Uhler estimates that some 150,000 Iowans are already illegally playing online poker, with operators outside the state effectively depriving Iowa of $30 million to $35 million in gaming taxes.
This is not the first time that Iowa lawmakers have been presented with internet gambling proposals. Last year, such a proposal was strongly debated and fell by the wayside before the bill was even introduced.
The new bill requires strict safeguards to block players under age 21, prevent fraud, money laundering or cheating, and keep the activity within state borders. The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission would be charged with regulating the state online poker network, and a single operator would run a website hub that would serve licensed land casinos that participate in the scheme.
Responsible gambling provisions would be required, and a state tax would be imposed on the adjusted gross receipts.
Iowans would have to register for an account in person at a participating state-regulated casino, or by carefully vetted mail, telephone or by electronic means, and a player complaints channel would be available.
Advance deposits wagering would also be permitted on horseracing, enabling bets by telephone, website or other electronic channels.
Several Iowa casinos have expressed an interest in the concept, but haven't yet seen the bill, Wes Ehrecke, president of the Iowa Gaming Association, which represents all 17 state-regulated casinos, told the Des Moines Register. The Association is currently fighting against proposed increases in taxation on land casinos.
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