The explosion of “Texas Hold ‘Em” poker tournaments may prompt Iowa lawmakers to change state gambling laws. A state investigator told the Legislative Oversight Committee on Tuesday that while the game’s wildly popular, not everyone’s following the law. “We have cited a couple of businesses in regards to this,” agent Joe Diaz reported. “But most of the time we are trying to educate the business owners or the holders of these tournaments as to what the laws are.” Under current law, you can play a casual card game with friends, but you can legally win just 50 dollars a day playing cards. Larger tournaments can only be held by “qualified” organizations recognized in state law, and cannot include a cash prize. Senator Mike Connolly, a Democrat from Dubuque, says some charities have unwittingly broken the law, and it’s time to clarify the rules. Connolly says,”I think there’s a concern that the state gets into all these areas and gets over-prescriptive and wants to generate some revenue for the state.” “That’s not the committee’s motivation here. It’s just to make the guidelines clear so people aren’t inadvertently violating the law.” Some lawmakers are worried about having teenagers playing Texas Hold ‘Em. But Representative Scott Raecker, a Republican from Urbandale, says current law is all over the place when it comes to gambling and kids. For example, if you’re under 18 you, can’t buy a lottery ticket but minors can buy a ticket for the school booster club raffle. He would be wary of any crackdown on teens who are gambling over cards. “I’ve talked to several parents in my district and in fact they think it’s actually been a very healthy opportunity because they find it’s something that their kids enjoy,” Raecker says. “They’re not playing high stakes, but they’re gathering together in somebody’s basement on a Friday night after a football game…and they know they’re in their home, they know they’re laughing and they’re playing cards.” But Raecker and Connolly agree lawmakers will probably debate the state’s “social gambling” laws in the 2005 legislative session which begins in January.
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