Iowa online poker bill progress; new California bill due this week; Utah opts out

TAGs: California, Iowa, Jeff Danielson, rod wright, stephen sandstrom

iowa-california-utah-online-pokerOn Monday, a three-member Iowa Senate subcommittee unanimously approved a bill (read SB 3164 here) to legalize online poker. It probably didn’t hurt that the subcommittee chairman, state Sen. Jeff Danielson, is the sponsor of the online poker bill. The full Senate State Government Committee is expected to consider the bill later in the week. Assuming it passes muster there, the bill would then begin making its arduous way through the full state legislature. The bill states that online bets “may be placed from any location within this state or from any other location where authorized by law,” leaving open the possibility that liquidity might be shared across state boundaries, or indeed, with other countries.

While forward progress of any poker bill is encouraging, the results of a recent Des Moines Register poll should serve as a sobering counterweight. The survey, conducted in mid-February, queried 800 adult Iowans on a number of issues. Asked whether they favored or opposed the legalization of “internet gambling for adults,” 69% said they were opposed, 28% were in favor, with just 3% undecided. While Danielson decries the state’s current “do nothing by default” policy, the poll suggests that lawmakers can expect to hear from plenty of do-nothing advocates when Danielson’s bill eventually makes it to the Senate and House floors.

California state Sen. Rod Wright is expected to introduce a new online poker bill sometime this week. Wright had previously sponsored the SB 45 internet gambling bill, which competed with the SB 40 poker-only bill last year, but both bills died before coming up for votes. Sources told Gambling Compliance that Wright’s new bill would be poker-only to start with options to expand the offering later on, assuming constitutional hurdles can be overcome and tribal exclusivity rights resolved. The bill would also reportedly require license applicants to be majority controlled by existing Cali casino, racing or card room interests, although outside corporate interests might be allowed to hold a minority stake in a new online poker venture.

This time around, Wright will have Senate president pro tempore Darrel Steinberg in his corner. Good thing, because the new bill only has a six-month window in which to be weighed, measured and voted up or down (in both House and Senate) before the legislative session concludes Aug. 31. Tribal lobbyist/consultant Jerome Encinas thinks that Steinberg’s backing will add “a leadership factor” to the debate, which may encourage more cooperation than the state’s competing gambling interests have previously demonstrated themselves capable. Still, not everyone’s convinced that 2012 will be any different, especially since this is an election year. The California Tribal Business Alliance’s political director David Quintana predicted “a lot of thunder but very little lightning.”

Still, things could be worse. You could live in Utah, where the House of Representatives voted 61-8 on Tuesday to approve Rep. Stephen Sandstrom’s anti-online gambling bill (HB 108). The bill exempts Utah from being forced to implement any federal online poker plan, even though (fellow Mormon) Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) has reportedly included opt-out provisions for timid/backward states in his still unseen federal poker bill. Seriously, when fellow Mormons can’t trust one another, the end times must truly be nigh…


views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of