Iowa Reconsiders Online Poker Legalization in 2013

Posted By: Date: 01/03/2013 at 12:00 am Leave a comment

The state of Iowa is well versed in the regulatory means of online gambling. The state took great strides towards legalization of online poker last year, but the last bill that proposed a legal framework died a slow, bitter death in the House in March of 2012. At that time, the state simply wasn’t ready to move forward with online poker regulation.

Nearly a year later, a number of factors have changed, bringing Iowa’s public officials back to the table to look at the possibility of intrastate poker benefiting the state. This time around, the stakes are higher, and there is a lot more support for legalization.

Nevada and Delaware have already implemented laws to legalize online gaming. Nevada chose to restrict its internet wagering to poker games, while Delaware has elected to go full throttle with poker and casino gambling. Though officially legalized at this point, neither state has progressed to the point of accepting that first internet wager. California and New Jersey are both on the brink of following in their footsteps, amending and lobbying for internet gaming bills ever since changing their stance on the subject, which came immediately after the US Department of Justice flipped its opinion of online gambling being prohibited by the Wire Act of 1961. 

“We’ve seen some states approve it and are moving in that direction,”? stated Jeff Lamberti, chairman of the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission, in an interview with the Iowa Press. “In actuality, our administrator is very knowledgeable [on the subject] and did a paper regarding internet poker specifically.”?

Lamberti made it clear that the state would be able to integrate online poker swiftly, should Iowa move to legalize. “We want to do like we do with our current facilities, have a high level of integrity. We want to regulate it so the people who engage in that can trust the product.”?

Wes Ehrecke, executive director of the Iowa Gaming Commission (IGC), is on board with the plan as well. He suggested that, should Iowa legalize online poker, it should be presented through the websites of current land-based casinos; establishments that have already built a solid reputation ““ that level of integrity Lamberti spoke of ““ with their clientele and the state. 

Like Lamberti, Ehrecke also feels that regulation should be left in the hands of the Racing and Gaming Commission, assuring the public that the state would be better equipped to restrict access from minors. The framework is not yet in place, but Ehrecke explicated that the proposed framework would also allow for acclimation to an interstate poker level, should federal legislation move in that direction in the future.

It has been estimated that 150,000 citizens of Iowa are currently participating in online poker games from offshore operators. The IGC stressed that players would have nowhere to turn to if their offshore poker sites chose not to pay up on winnings. “Who do you complain to if the site is in Antigua?”? Ehrecke asked. By legalizing and regulating intrastate online poker, the Racing and Gaming Commission would be right there to ensure players’ rights are upheld.

The previous online poker bill presented before the Iowa’s officials in February of 2012 looked hopeful when it passed the Government Committee with a vote of 11-4, and again two weeks later when it made it past the Senate by a partisan of 29-20. Unfortunately, for its advocates, it was denied in the House when officials weren’t prepared to vote on such legislation. Chairman Peter Crownie said, “We really never expected it to come over [from the House].”? Thus the House never voted on it, and the proposition simply faded out of existence in March.

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