02/21/2012 : Senate committee forwards Danielson bill
Iowa state Senator Jeff Danielson managed to fast track his online poker legalization bill SSB3164 through a key senate sub-committee Monday despite some stiff opposition from conservative anti-gambling groups.
Fears that the President's Day holiday would delay the process did not materialise, and the three member Senate panel forwarded the bill through for further consideration by the Senate State Government Committee, which could review it as early as this Wednesday.
Danielson said that prohibition has failed in other areas and nations and the preferred approach is to bring an illegal wagering activity estimated at between $30 million and $100 million annually under state regulation to protect Iowans and attempt to obviate underage play.
“Today the policy is do nothing by default,” Danielson said, noting the “wild, wild West” environment of unregulated online poker is further complicated by a vague federal approach to the pastime.
Danielson's proposed legalization would authorise the creation of an online poker network and provide a regulatory structure for its implementation, operation and taxation. The bill would allow intrastate, interstate and international arrangements by common consent, and poker site or sites would operate under the state’s current gaming fee structure, he said.
Competing hub operators would be able to partner with state-licensed casinos under the control of the state Racing and Gaming Commission to operate affiliated online sites for registered players ages 21 and older who are within Iowa’s borders at the time they are playing. Danielson said out-of-state residents would be able to go to an Iowa casino, establish an account and play during the time they were in Iowa.
“We have it out there. It needs to be controlled,” Sen. Wally Horn, a Democrat said in support of the proposal, whilst Republican Sen. Rick Bertrand agreed, saying: "I see this as an opportunity for Iowa to get out in front of this.”
Wes Ehrecke of the Iowa Gaming Association, an umbrella group that represents 18 state-regulated casinos, said his members generally are supportive of the concept, especially if there is no exclusivity offered to one hub operator.
The group prefers passage of a federal law to address online gaming from a national perspective but, absent that, it generally favours a plan to allow Internet poker on the casinos’ “platform,” regulated by the state commission and with reciprocity to enter into partnerships with Nevada, the District of Columbia and other states that may choose to legalise.
Danielson pointed to a recent study by the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission, which found that $13 million to $60 million dollars a year in revenues could be generated by internet poker operators in the state. Assuming a tax rate of 22 percent, the projections from the Commission indicate indicate approximately $3 million to $13 million in potential tax revenue annually, although Danielson stressed that raising tax revenues was not his principal objective.