Posted 3/23/11 : Senators delay promising legalization attempt at committee level
Another legalization disappointment emerged from Iowa late Tuesday afternoon when state senators delayed a bill that had thus far enjoyed a smooth progress toward House and Senate debate and possible voting.
The DesMoines Register, which has been keeping a close eye on the legalization bill “Iowa Internet Poker 32 Consumer Protection and Revenue Generation Act of 2011” introduced recently by Sen. Jeff Danielson, reports that the bill failed in a meeting of the full Ways and Means Committee of the Senate, having successfully passed the Senate State Government Committee and a 4 to 1 positive vote in a bipartisan Ways and Means subcommittee as it raced towards an April 1st deadline.
Ways and Means Committee chairman, Sen. Joe Bolkcom, said the bill may need some tweaks. “People needed more time to work through it,” he said.
State lawmakers were reportedly concerned that legalization would create more gamblers, and the danger of more problem gamblers.
“It’s a terrible, terrible bill,” Sen. Randy Feenstra, a Republican, told the newspaper. “It’s the worst bill I’ve seen in this Legislature and I mean that. We’ve had all these social bills to address credit card abuses, violence, children’s neglect and abuse, and here’s the main issue why these things occur.”
Supporting the bill, Democrat Sen. Bill Dotzler, accepted that it was a real possibility that more Iowans would dabble in online poker if the state sanctioned it, but said: “but I think it’s time the state of Iowa regulates it and makes sure Iowans aren’t getting ripped off and we do capture some of those revenues.”
A Ways and Means sub-committee advanced the bill earlier in the day, only to have the full committee remove it from the schedule of bills up for the committee's vote.
The deliberations saw another contender for the hub contract emerging in digital gaming operator, MGT Inc., which said its system includes global positioning system cards in computers that would kick players out of their accounts if they leave Iowa. US Digital Gaming has so far been the highest profile contender for the deal…if the Danielson legalization bill is successful.
Another possibility is for the state to run the hub for the casinos by itself., the Registry speculates. The Iowa Lottery would be open handling that, spokeswoman Mary Neubauer said. Scientific Games, a contributor to Iowa political campaigns, currently holds the contract for providing the Lottery’s games.
Lobbyists for the bill suggested that a poll organised by the DesMoines Register and published just before the introduction of the bill, could have dampened enthusiasm for its passage. The poll showed that an overall 73 percent of respondents did not favour the legalization of online gambling.
“They need more time to understand that this is a very limited regulatory bill and it’s not an expansion of gambling on the Internet, it’s basically regulating what’s already there,” one lobbyist said. “People just need time to get comfortable with that.”
A spokesman for US Digital Gaming commented: “If Iowans understand there are 150,000 currently playing online illegally for money and their dollars are going to overseas illegal operators, we believe Iowans would be in favor of regulating and taxing that activity and keeping those dollars with casinos that are investing in the community and employing people in Iowa.”