Just days after the Iowa state Senate voted 29-20 in favor of launching an intrastate online poker network, House State Government chairman Peter Cownie has dimmed hopes that the scheme would receive similar support in the lower chamber. The Republican-controlled House was always viewed as a tougher sell on online poker’s merits, but Cownie told local ABC affiliate KCRG that he doubted the measure would meet the legislature’s self-imposed March 16 ‘funnel’ deadline (by which bills need to be passed by one chamber and approved by a committee of the other in order to stay on the order paper). There’s an outside chance that the issue could be revived if the chairs of two House committees decide to write their own poker bill, but House speaker Kraig Paulsen claims there’s a “general lack of interest” in the House ranks for tackling online poker in this legislative session.
Hawaii’s half-hearted approach to ending its dubious status as one of only two US states that permits no gambling also appears to have lost steam. On Wednesday, Gambling Compliance’s Chris Krafcik quoted a source in the state’s House of Representatives as confirming the 2012 version of the state’s online gambling proposals was “dead.”
With Mississippi also having bowed out, that leaves just New Jersey and California with pending online gambling legislation, and NJ’s recent momentum appears to have hit a snag. State Sen. Ray Lesniak had predicted both the Senate and Assembly would pass their respective bills by Thursday, but Assemblyman John Burzichelli has been preaching a more cautious approach. Burzichelli says time is required to properly “digest” the testimony of Seton Hall law professor John Wefing, who told politicians this week that no voter referendum was required in order to pass online gambling legislation. NJ faced its own ‘funnel’ on Thursday, as politicians prepare to tackle the state’s budget, pushing discussion of pretty much everything else – including online poker – to the side, possibly for weeks, or even months.
PLAYTECH TO PUT NEVADA IN PLAY
In Nevada, the only US jurisdiction with online poker legislation currently on the books, Playtech is set to become the latest hopeful applicant for an online poker service provider license. CEO Mor Weizer told eGaming Review that the company is “weeks away” from submitting its paperwork, and that a strategic deal with a US partner could be announced in the next quarter. Weizer also revealed that the Playtech had undergone “certain probity checks” in New Jersey, Connecticut and Maine — the three states that have issued operating licenses to Sportech Racing, in which Playtech holds a 10% stake.
As for Playtech’s deal with the tribes and card rooms making up the California Online Poker Association (COPA), Weizer claims the bond remains “strong.” Last year, COPA signed a deal with SciPlay, Playtech’s joint venture with Scientitic Games, and while this JV was downgraded to a “strategic partnership” in January, Weizer claims the change was made to allow “far more flexibility” to each partner. “The original agreement we had exclusivity for the lottery market, now it goes beyond this and we can co-operate on different levels, so it can also be casinos and other operations in the US … There are definitely opportunities underway in various markets and we will update the market in due course.”