An Iowa lawmaker has come out in favor of online poker legislation less than two weeks after a state gaming association president indicated the likelihood that the Hawkeye State would not be considering such a proposal in 2014.
Sen. Brian Schoenjahn (D-Arlington) told the Quad City Times of his concern that Iowans who visit unregulated online poker sites located offshore are afforded no consumer protections that regulation would provide. He mentioned the fact that logging on and playing at gaming websites that are not overseen by any government authority within the U.S. could lead to problems beyond the failure of the processing of withdrawal requests.
“My fear is that it’s like the Target credit card scam, except there are no protections,” Schoenjahn said. “If people are going to do it [play online poker] anyway, maybe Iowa ought to take a piece of the pie and regulate it.”
That piece of the pie may be worth $3-$13 million annually based on research conducted on behalf of the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission. The study found that some 150,000 Iowa residents log on and play online poker.
But don’t expect any online poker proposals to be introduced in Iowa this year. Iowa Gaming Association president and CEO Wes Ehrecke said roughly 10 days ago that the wait and see approach would be employed at present. Ehrecke told Casino Enterprise Management that a shorter legislative session in 2014 is another reason why an Internet poker bill will not be introduced.
That sentiment was echoed by Iowa Lottery Director Terry Rich, who indicated that the progress made in the online poker regimes in New Jersey and Nevada would be scrutinized before the state legislature looks at a new proposal. State officials are also monitoring movement with regard to online gambling at the federal level, of which there currently is none.
Online poker proposals failed to advance the past two years in Iowa. The Iowa Senate approved a measure by a 29-20 vote in 2012, but it died in the House. In 2013, a similar Internet poker bill failed to gain traction in a Senate committee.
Commercial brick and mortar casinos in Iowa showed less than promising results in 2013. The addition of online poker to the mix could increase revenue much the same way that it has in New Jersey. Despite Sen. Schoenjahn’s concerns, it looks like that revenue boost will have to wait until at least 2015.