When the state of Iowa put the kibosh on its intrastate online poker plans earlier this year, it threw supporters a bone by commissioning a study of just how the availability of online poker would impact Iowans. Researchers at the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) have since submitted their findings, which amount to a collective shrug of their academic shoulders. Ironically, America’s lack of state-sanctioned online poker markets deprived researchers of the homegrown data they required to arrive at a conclusion. Nor, in UNI’s opinion, is there sufficient data from jurisdictions where state-sanctioned online gambling was operating, such as Europe, Canada and Australia.
With no facts at his disposal, UNI egghead Gene Lutz pulled his chair a little closer to the fire, put on his speculatin’ hat and suggested… he wasn’t sure. “We can’t judge at this point whether if you made internet gambling legal, whether you would have more gambling, or just more gamblers. At this point there’s no conclusive evidence for any one of those speculations versus the other.” Lutz also couldn’t say whether the majority of those who started gambling on a state-backed system would be new gamblers or people who just switched over from a US-facing international operator. Lutz was sure about one thing. ‘People are doing it, and will they continue, yes.” We like to imagine Lutz immediately turned his head and shot a stream of tobacco juice into a nearby spittoon as an emphatic exclamation point.
With UNI’s ringing endorsement of inertia and polls showing the majority of Iowans still not entirely bowled over by the notion of online poker, the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission has decided not to make any recommendation to state lawmakers on whether or not to approve the game. The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission has until Dec. 1 to file a separate report on the feasibility of establishing a regulatory framework for online poker. Legislators are expected to resume debate on the subject in January 2012.