Weekend open thread: No joy for online poker players

A bill to legalize online poker in Iowa has been up and down this legislative session. The effort spearheaded by Democratic Senator Jeff Danielson stayed alive past the funnel deadline but faced opposition within both political parties. On Thursday the Iowa Senate Ways and Means Committee called for further study of the issue.  

[Senate File 458] asks the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission to prepare a report to the Iowa Legislature by Dec. 1 regarding the creation of a framework for state regulation of intrastate Internet poker. […]

The state commission’s report on Internet poker would be required to consider the current state of unregulated Internet poker play in Iowa, consumer protection, and “responsible gaming” measures that can be implemented.  The commission could also consult with Iowa casinos and potential Internet poker hub operators in developing the report.

Sen. William Dotzler, D-Waterloo, the bill’s manager,  said the revised proposal will allow lawmakers to take a deliberate approach to examining Internet gambling, recognizing that thousands of Iowans are already gambling online. Other proposed changes are aimed at recognizing the important role that casinos and gambling have in contributing to the economies of  Iowa’s communities, he said.

Some commission reports influence future legislation; others collect dust on shelves at the statehouse. Enthusiasts for bringing legal online poker to Iowa say it would harvest some $30 million in state tax revenues from an activity Iowans are already engaged in. Opponents say it would increase compulsive gambling and diminish protection against underage or drunk people losing money through Iowa casinos. In the Des Moines Register’s Iowa Poll conducted by Selzer and Co. in February, respondents against legalizing online gambling outnumbered supporters 3 to 1.  That survey did not ask specifically about online poker games.

I tend to agree that Iowa has enough gambling already. Enticing people to spend more on new forms of gambling will hurt local economies by reducing the amount people spend on goods and services in their own communities. Online poker is not going to solve the state’s budget issues or create a large contingent of self-made poker-playing millionaires.

On Friday, federal prosecutors indicted founders of three of popular online poker websites for fraud and money laundering and shut down the Full Tilt Poker, PokerStars and Absolute Poker sites. Depending on how you view the issue, this prosecution could either undermine or strengthen the case for legalizing and regulating online gambling in the U.S.

This is an open thread. What’s on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers?

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