The Iowa Senate has passed a bill which calls on the Racing and Gaming Commission to study how the state’s casinos might operate internet poker games. The proposal is included in a bill that also changes the rules for county gambling referendums and sets policy for the prizes awarded to the owners of horses that race at Prairie Meadows.
During the debate, Senator Brad Zaun, a Republican from Urbandale, suggested it was time to end greyhound racing in Iowa. “I’ve been told that in any given night, even on a very nice evening, in Council Bluffs there’d be 20 to 30 people in attendance there,” Zaun said.
“I just want to bring it to everybody’s attention that this is an issue that we need to talk about.” According to Zaun, the two greyhound tracks in Dubuque and Council Bluffs could save $10-million a year if the adjoining casinos were allowed to operate without racing.
Zaun offered an amendment to the wide-ranging gambling bill that would have ended greyhound racing in Iowa, but he withdrew the idea before a vote could be taken. “I just want to bring it to everybody’s attention that this is an issue that we need to talk about,” Zaun said.
Senator Randy Feenstra, a Republican from Hull, tried to get the senate to vote to forbid smoking on the casino gaming floors — a loophole granted to casinos when the legislature passed the statewide smoking ban in 2008. “It was a truly a bad day for government because why would you ban it everywhere else but your own casinos, and I know that answer it’s probably because of the revenue the state gets, but that’s truly an embarrassment,” Feenstra said.
Senate President Jack Kibbie ruled a proposal to ban smoking at the casinos was outside the boundaries of the bill, so debate on that proposal was forbidden. The bill originally would have allowed the state’s casinos to set up an online poker network in Iowa, but that was stripped from the bill in favor of a study.
The bill also limits the number of county referendums necessary to keep a casino open. Senators passed the gambling bill on a 38 to 12 vote, but its future in the Iowa House is uncertain.