20th of February 2012 Author: Ava Jackuard
Democrat state senator will fast-track his proposal this week
Jeff Danielson, Iowa state Senator and a Democratic Party politician who has been consistently pressing for online poker legislation in Iowa, is about to make a move as soon as this week to introduce intrastate legislation and licensing.
Danielson will try to push his proposal through a Senate sub-committee, adding 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.
Those benefits, as well as potential jobs if the state becomes a hub for online poker, must be persuasive arguments for legalisation as Daniels sees the matter. He hopes 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.
Only recently Danielson commented: "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. 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."
State politicians have done an extensive discussion and research into the subject which included an inconclusive hearing by the House State Government Committee, and Danielson's new initiative comes against it. Not to mention that his ideas have an opposition in some conservative quarters, so the debate is expected to be lively.
The Iowa Gaming Association, an umbrella group representing 18 state-regulated casinos, appears to hew to the American Gaming Association line that federal legalisation is preferable to state-by-state initiatives, but in general the idea of channeling online poker through land operators seems to have support.
The plan is to develop a concept introduced in the Senate last year to create intrastate online poker network and to provide a regulatory structure for its implementation, operation, and taxation. Online poker hub operators would be under the control of the state Racing and Gaming Commission, contracted with state-licensed casinos to operate affiliated online sites within a "closed loop" in Iowa for registered players aged 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. 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."
Danielson also said the focus is only on Iowa's safe and secure regulation of online poker, differentiating it as a game of skill apart from other forms of gambling: "This isn't a free-for-all. People need to know that. I'm focused only on poker. 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."
Finally, he promised he would be willing to keep away the revenue the state gains from online poker for a time so people believe it is not about making money for the government.
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