Poker News

After failing to pass legislation this year that would have brought the state into the online poker arena, reports are coming from the head of Iowa’s gaming commission that the state is ready to take another look at passing the legislation.

The chairman of the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission, Jeff Lamberti, was interviewed by the Iowa public television program “Iowa Press,” where he commented that his board was ready for the Iowa legislature to act. “That’s really where the next step in gaming is moving,” Lamberti stated during the program. “We’ve seen some states approve it and are moving in that direction. In actuality, our administrator is very knowledgeable (on the subject) and did a paper regarding internet poker specifically.”

If the Iowa legislature was to pass laws for online poker, Lamberti stated on the program that his department is ready to implement those laws quickly. “We want to do like we do with our current facilities, have a high level of integrity,” he said in the interview. “We want to regulate it so the people who engage in that can trust the product.

Although the framework isn’t in place at this point, the executive director of the Iowa Gaming Association, Wes Ehrecke, has offered some suggestions on the subject. “We’d like to have it offered through the website portals of the casinos, regulated by the Racing and Gaming Commission, so you’re assured that, when you play, we can keep the minors out,” Ehrecke stated.

Ehrecke also indicated that the potential framework would allow for interstate play. He estimates that there are 150,000 Iowa residents that currently play online poker on off-shore sites and that number would grow considerably through the ability of interstate play.

Finally, Ehrecke believes that regulation of the industry is critical from a customer service standpoint. “If you’re playing (on an off-shore site) and had a straight flush and win $5000, what happens if you don’t get paid?,” he queried. “Who do you complain to if the site is in Antigua? That wouldn’t happen if it is regulated by the Racing and Gaming Commission and offered through our casino platform.”

Earlier this year, the drive for legislation of online poker began to take shape in the Hawkeye State. In late February, the Iowa Senate State Government Committee debated the regulation of online poker, passing the bill out of the committee by an 11-4 vote. Roughly two weeks later, the Iowa Senate then took up the question on Senate File 2257, passing it by a partisan 29-20 vote (only eight Republican legislators voted for the measure, while 15 voted against it).

Two days after the Senate vote, however, the Iowa House would shoot down the legislation. Citing the speed in which the Senate moved on the proposed legislation, the House chairman, Peter Cownie, said at the time, “We really didn’t expect it to come over (from the Senate),” and there was never a vote held in the House on the proposed online poker regulatory bill.

As we reach the end of 2012, there are only two states that have passed measures for online poker or online casino gaming. In Nevada, the regulations have been in place for some time for online poker and licenses have been granted to several operators, but it isn’t expected until March 2013 that the first “real money” sites will go online. In Delaware, full online casino gaming has passed but there has been little action in moving forward with actually bringing sites online.

There is action pending on the online gaming issue in two other states. Currently in New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie has a proposed online casino gaming regulatory framework on his desk for his signature, but there have been no indications of what Governor Christie will do with that bill. He can sign it into law, veto it (as he has done previously) or let it sit for its required 45 days, at which time it will become law without his signature.

California is also working to get online poker legislation passed through the halls of Sacramento. After slow movement on the issue – and divisive infighting among the poker rooms, Indian casinos and horse racing tracks inside the state – it appears as though the bill is gaining traction as the close of 2012 looms.

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