The Iowa House has sent the governor a wide-ranging gambling bill that calls for a study of how the state’s casinos might run an on-line poker network.
Debate on the legislation was suspended at one point after Representative Janet Pedersen, a Democrat from Des Moines, tried to attach a controversial proposal to the bill. Pedersen wanted to ban smoking on the casino gaming floors.
“When we passed the Smokefree Air Act of 2008 one group of employees that was left out of protection from second-hand smoke is those people who work in casinos,” Petersen said, “and so this would give them an opportunity to work in a smokefree environment.”
Democrats went into a private meeting after Petersen unveiled her proposal. Nearly 40 minutes later, the House resumed debate and Petersen’s proposed smoking ban at the casinos failed on a voice vote. Representative Peter Cownie, a Republican from West Des Moines, suggested the bill was a carefully crafted compromise.
“Senate File 526 does not expand gambling in Iowa and allows an industry to operate more effectively and more efficiently,” Cownie said during House debate.
The bill gives established casinos a reverse referendum process so the operations would no longer face a county-wide vote every eight years in order to stay in business. Critics of the casino would have to collect petition signatures to force a referenum instead. The bill also includes rules for how horse race prizes are awarded at Prairie Meadows in Altoona and at county fairs around the state. Another provision in the bill allows Iowans to place bets on the races at Prairie Meadows online or over the phone.
The bill passed the House on a 72 to 21 vote this afternoon. It had cleared the Senate in mid-April on a 38 to 12 vote. The bill now goes to Governor Branstad for his approval or veto.