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Online Gambling in Florida and Iowa

By: Rick Balding, Monday January 10th 2011
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The action for online gambling legalization in the United States has shifted to the states. The New Jersey bill is scheduled for a full hearing today. The California bill seeking to legalize intrastate online poker is imminent. Two other states that have been in the news are Florida and Iowa.

The new Republican governor of Florida Rick Scott had met Las Vegas Sands owner Sheldon Adelson soon after taking charge. At a press conference last week reporters quizzed Governor Scott on whether that meeting signaled changes in land based and online gambling in Florida. Florida runs a state lottery, takes a cut from the casinos run by the Seminole Indians and permits betting at horse and dog tracks and jai alai frontons. Some of those facilities are allowed poker rooms and slot machines. However land casinos are illegal. Adelson has been pressing the Florida legislature to lift the ban. Scott however denied that anything was in the offing. He said, "I'm fine with what they are doing. I've not taken any position I want to expand gaming or make any changes."

A bill to legalize and regulate intrastate online poker, HB77, the Internet Poker Consumer Protection and Revenue Generation Act of 2011, is also before the Florida House. It was reintroduced by Joseph Abruzzo in December 2010, with a proposed effective date of July 1 2011. The bill has safeguards against money laundering and underage and problem gambling. It is based on a clause in the UIGEA that allows individual states to decide on online gambling legislation. However, there is no further activity reported on this bill.

Meanwhile there are reports in the newspaper Des Moines Register this week that the legislators in Iowa are under increasing pressure to legalize online gambling, with some of them having expressed a favourable opinion. The fact of the matter is that about 150,000 Iowans already engage in online gambling and without regulatory protection. Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal said that he had no strong views either way on the issue, but in the given situation some kind of regulation made sense. He suggested a system requiring online gamblers to sign up at local land casinos with cash up front to eliminate the dangers of betting on credit. He also stressed that it was important to incorporate safeguards against money laundering, underage and problem gamblers.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy however had a different view point. He accepted that the attraction lay in generation of additional tax revenues but the minuses were considerable. He also pointed out that any legislation would be controversial because of different interest groups involved. Changes may be required in the other Iowa gambling laws.

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