Possibility of online gambling in Iowa?

Hearing possible as early as next week on Internet gambling proposal

The House State Government Committee in Iowa may conduct a hearing as early as next week on a proposal to legalise and regulate online sports betting and perhaps other forms of e-gaming, according to a report from the Sioux City Journal.

Democrat Representative Brian Quirk, who is part of a seven-member bipartisan gambling working group, told the newspaper that the proposal may expand the sports betting language approved by a Senate committee to include legalised betting on collegiate sports - except Iowa colleges.

However, opponents of the expansion say that legalised sports betting is dependent on changes in federal law and will encounter strong opposition from State Government Committee Chairwoman Mary Mascher, who has threatened to delete such proposals from any gaming bill that comes to the committee.

Quirk told the newspaper this week: "The time for debating whether Iowa is a gambling state is long past. Either we're a gambling state or we're not, and with 17 [land] casinos I'd say we're a gambling state."

Republican Representative Jeff Kauffman, is a staunch opponent of gambling expansion and said that the proposal faces stiff opposition, and that it was unlikely that legislators who have consistently voted against gambling expansion will change their position. However, he felt that state budgetry problems may persuade lawmakers to at least consider the proposal.

"It's policy versus need and that's a juggling act every legislator here will have to deal with," Kauffman said.

Quirk pointed out that an estimated 80 000 Iowans already play online poker, and that under the provision, Iowans could open an account at a appropriately licensed land casino, perhaps with a $50 limit, receive a password and play poker from their home computers as long as they had money in their accounts. They would have to return to the casino to put more money into their accounts and to collect winnings.

The scheme is reminscent of the Playway system introduced at Foxwoods several years ago, but could ensure compliance with federal laws against online gambling financial transactions with offshore companies.

Other changes envisaged include allowing major poker tournaments at existing casinos and a code change to allow casinos to profit from out-of-state pari-mutuel betting on races run at Iowa dog and horse tracks.

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