The lead Republican working on a package of gambling-related proposals says it’s hard to predict whether legislators will embrace the ideas the small group of House members are considering.
One idea calls for allowing large poker tournaments in facilities like convention centers that are adjacent to the 17 state-licensed casinos., as current law requires those tournaments to be held on the existing gaming floor. Representative Doug Struyk, a Republican, is from Council Bluffs which has three state-licensed casinos. He says under current law, poker tournaments are held on what’s considered the “gaming floors” of the casinos where slot machines are often bolted down.
“If you want to have a poker tournament, you need to have a lot of poker tables. You would have to take all of those machines out, put the poker tables in — so you’ve stopped all that gaming, went to something else, and then you get to change it all again three or four days later,” Struyk says. “It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.”
Another idea would allow the state’s casinos to take bets on professional sports, if congress lifts a ban on sports betting in most states.
“It’s always interesting to think about including something that’s technically illegal at the present time, but we would have enabling legislation should the Supreme Court or congress — however it comes about — decide that it is acceptable for other states,” Struyk says, “because of the equal protection argument.”
A third proposal would allow some casinos to pay the state a fee to avoid having to be subject to county-wide gambling referendums every eight years. Struyk says he’s not sure what may be in the final package – -and he’s not sure there are enough votes to pass a gambling bill in the House.
“This is not a slam dunk. Are there 51 votes for gambling expansion? I couldn’t tell you. Is it inevitable that we talk about gaming because we’re looking at ways to bring in more revenue? You betcha,” Struyk says. “But is it inevitable that we pass a bill or even bring a bill to the floor? No. We need to have 51, hopefully moe than 51 (votes) before we even think about bringing it to the floor.”
Struyk made his comments on the Iowa Public Television program, “Iowa Press.”