Friday, December 2,2011 : NEW REPORT SETS UP THE ONLINE POKER DEBATE IN IOWA
 
A step closer to intrastate legalization?
 
The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission has completed its study of online poker and has submitted its report to the state Legislature, taking the issue of legalization a step further.
 
The Commission was tasked by lawmakers to provide a report on the implications of legalising intrastate poker earlier this year , and the completion of the study sets the scene for further debate early in 2012.
 
IRGC researchers estimate that internet poker operators could pull in between $13 million to $60 million annually from Iowa’s Internet poker players. Assuming a tax rate of 22 percent – similar to Iowa casino taxes – these projections indicate an estimated $3 million to $13 million in potential tax revenue to the state annually
 
However, the study indicated the tax rate might be adjusted to reflect that an online operation would not have the same costs associated with operating a “bricks-and-mortar” casino, according to the 106-page report issued Thursday.
 
Projections from several models used in the commission’s research estimated the number of online poker players in a range from 34,500 up to 172,500, although the study conceded the assumptions were based on a small number of forecasts from which researchers applied a 1 percent estimate for Iowa-related activity given that the state’s 3 million population is about 1 percent of the nation’s 300 million residents.
 
Gambling industry officials contended in the last legislative session that an estimated 150,000 Iowa players already are engaging in online poker via illegal offshore operations.
 
In attempting to verify those gambling officials' claims, Commission researchers were hampered because industry officials "did not want to divulge proprietary information."
 
Jack Ketterer, administrator of the Commission, says the report does not make any recommendations whether state lawmakers should proceed with implementing Internet poker in Iowa.
 
“Our goal was fact finding and information gathering that could help the legislators who might face bills to be better informed so they could make a public policy decision that was in the best interest of Iowa,” Ketterer said in an interview.
 
“I think that is really a public policy question,” Ketterer said, adding that if lawmakers authorise state-regulated Internet poker games, Iowa’s three Indian tribes will also likely be offered the same opportunity under the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.
 
Based on the research, Ketterer said he believed the state agency would be able to regulate online poker activity should the legal hurdles be cleared.