02/20/2012 : Democrat state senator the likely mover as soon as this week
Iowa state Senator Jeff Danielson, a Democratic Party politician who has consistently pushed for legalised online poker in Iowa, could be about to make a move this week to introduce legalization for intrastate legalization and licensing.
Local media report that Danielson will try and fast-track his proposal through a Senate sub-committee, in part using the results of a recent Iowa Gaming and Racing Commission study which found that an intrastate online poker operator like the state lottery could expect to generate $13 million to $60 million a year, delivering state tax revenues of around $3 million to $13 million annually.
Danielson contends that such benefits, together with jobs if the state becomes a hub for online poker, are persuasive arguments for legalization, and he wants to see the state taking the lead in authorising the Commission to establish a framework for hub operators and state-licensed casinos to provide online poker to Iowans via an intrastate network… or join multi-state partnerships to attract more players and bigger wagering pots.
"Over the last year or so, we've had a tremendous change in the dynamics around online poker, and I believe it's the responsibility for us to have a thoughtful, responsible gaming policy when it comes to online poker," Danielson said recently. "The challenge for us is right now we have a do-nothing policy by default.
"I don't believe do nothing is the appropriate answer. To do nothing means it is the wild, wild West and no ability to account for the costs if you're not thoughtfully engaged in what policy you have."
Danielson's new initiative comes against a background of extensive discussion and research into the subject by state politicians, including an inconclusive hearing by the House State Government Committee recently.
In some conservative quarters there is opposition to Danielson's ideas, and debate is likely to be lively. The Iowa Gaming Association, an umbrella group that represents 18 state-regulated casinos, appears to hew to the American Gaming Association line that federal legalization is preferable to state-by-state initiatives, but in general Danielson's idea of channeling online poker through land operators seems to have support.
Danielson is on record as saying that he plans to further develop a concept introduced in the Senate last year that authorised the creation of an intrastate online poker network and provided a regulatory structure for its implementation, operation and taxation.
Any online poker hub operator or operators would be under the control of the state Racing and Gaming Commission, which would contract with state-licensed casinos to operate affiliated online sites within a "closed loop" in Iowa for registered players ages 21 and older.
"You will not be able to play online poker in Iowa should this become law unless you sign up with your local casino," Danielson said. "We want to make sure the trusted professionals in our own communities who have all sorts of accountability and have to be responsive to their local voters – we want to make sure that they're the gateway to online poker."
He said the focus is only on Iowa's safe and secure regulation of online poker, which he differentiated as a game of skill that is apart from other forms of gambling.
"This isn't a free-for-all. People need to know that. I'm focused only on poker," the Senator said earlier this year. "We will close every loophole, including the lottery's ability to do online poker if we have to. We will close every loophole so that the policy is crystal clear and air tight."
Danielson said he also would be willing to sequester the revenue the state gains from online poker for a time so people understand it's not about making money for government.