A bill that would let Iowa casinos run on-line poker games easily cleared the Senate State Government Committee this evening.

AUDIO of committee debate, runs 4:50.

Senator Bill Dix, a Republican from Shell Rock who voted for the bill, pointed to provisions that would forbid companies found guilty of criminal activity elsewhere from being involved.

“We have a situation here in Iowa where Iowa citizens are not being protected and this bill will do that,” Dix said. “We have unscrupulous operators from off-shore accounts who are preying on the citizens of Iowa and this bill seeks to solve that problem.”

Senator Rick Bertrand, a Republican from Sioux City, said senators began considering this issue a year ago and took their time working through the details.

“I don’t see this as an expansion of gaming. I see this as an expansion of an existing freedom,” Bertrand said. “I think has great potential for Iowa for us to get out in front of this and be a leader nationwide.”

In 1989 Iowa was the first state in the country to legalize “riverboat gambling” and Sioux City is home to one of the casinos.

It took less than five minutes for the Senate State Government Committee to debate the bill and only four senators on the 15-member panel voted against it. Senators Jack Hatch, a Democrat from Des Moines; Randy Feenstra, a Republican from Hull; Mark Chelgren, a Republican from Ottumwa; and Roby Smith, a Republican from Davenport all voted no.