Governor Terry Branstad is open to the idea of legalizing Internet gambling in Iowa.
“Some of the people who are promoting it say we’ve got this illegal, off-shore gambling that’s going on and we want to prevent and this would be a way to have it done legally instead of it being done illegally without the state getting any tax benefit from it,” Branstad says.
“So I guess my feeling about it is I want to learn more about it.”
A bill that is set for debate in the Iowa Senate would allow the state-licensed casinos to run an online poker network for Iowans. New Jersey’s governor has vetoed the prospect of internet gambling in his state, but Branstad notes Florida, California and other states are considering similar legislation. The state-licensed casinos estimate as many as 150,000 Iowans are currently playing poker online.
“This is kind of a new phenomenon and as I understand it, it’s a pretty significant issue and one that I think deserves to be very carefully studied,” Branstad says.
Listen to Branstad’s comments on gambling, starting at the 14 minute mark of this MP3 of the governor’s weekly news conference: BranstadMarch21
When Branstad was first elected governor in the 1980s he vetoed bills that would have created the Iowa Lottery twice before signing the third bill into law. He also signed Iowa’s riverboat gambling law which is the basis for the casino industry. During the 2010 campaign, Branstad declare Iowa a “saturated” gambling market. But when questioned by a reporter this morning, Branstad did not indicate he sees the casinos’ foray into Internet gambling as a gambling expansion.
“The question is can we prevent Iowans from being involved in the illegal activity that’s going on off-shore right,” Branstad says. “…And I’m open to looking at what the options and alternatives are in trying to deal with that.”
Branstad suggests protecting Iowans from being bilked by Internet predators is a key selling point in the proposal.
“We want to keep it honest and I’ve always said protecting the integrity of the state is the most important responsibility and that’s the way I look at it…and we certainly prevent our citizens from being defrauded by unscrupulous activities,” Branstad says.
There are currently 17 state-licensed casinos operating in Iowa with an 18th under construction in far northwest Iowa.
(This story was updated at 10:30 a.m.)