A senate committee this Wednesday will consider a bill that would have the state-licensed casinos run internet poker games.
“Today the policy is do nothing by default,” says Senator Jeff Danielson, a Democrat from Cedar Falls who is the chief sponsor of the bill. “We neither prohibit it, nor do we say it’s legal. It’s in limbo, in the legal sense. Some might call it the wild, wild west.”
The bill would let the casinos strike deals with vendors of software that limits the play to computers which are physically inside the state’s borders. Potential players would have to either go to a state-licensed casino to sign up to play on-line poker or already be an established customer with the casino — like someone who’s a part of a casino player’s club.
“I believe we ought to have a thoughtful policy,” Danielson says, “a responsible policy that protects poker players so that they can be assured a fair game and a level playing field whether they play poker online or in a casino.”
Senator Wally Horn, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids, says the state needs to start regulating the games.
“It needs to be controlled,” Horn says. “We have a bill before us that’s making the most honest attempt that we can to get that done.”
Senator Rick Bertrand, a Republican from Sioux City, agrees.
“In an environment where we’re all looking for new revenue sources and squeezing down freedoms, I see this maybe as an opportunity for a new revenue stream that expands on some freedoms,” Bertrand says.
The three senators signed off on the bill during a sub-committee meeting this afternoon and the measure will be debated in the Senate State Government Committee Wednesday. Critics, like Danny Carroll of The Family Leader, say if online poker becomes legal in Iowa, more Iowans will become gambling addicts.
“Internet gaming is dangerous,” Carroll says. “It is addictive. You should not play it.”
And Tom Chapman of the Iowa Catholic Conference doubts whether security software would prevent kids from playing poker online.
“Anybody that’s had teenagers knows that they’re pretty creative in terms of the Internet and I would still have some concern that there would be some ways that younger people could get involved in this,” Chapman says. “…Put those two things together, internet and gambling, and I think it’s a pretty dangerous combination for the state.”
Supporters of the bill say new G.P.S. software would be able to restrict the online gaming so people in other states and countries would not be able to play and security systems in Europe are already ensuring only adults are able to gamble online.