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Governor Signs Bill Authorizing Study on Online Gaming

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On May 26, Gov. Terry Branstad signed into law a gambling bill that, among other things, calls for a study on online gambling in Iowa. 

Senate File 526 requires the state racing and gaming commission to prepare a report “regarding the creation of a framework for the state regulation of intrastate Internet poker.” The report will look at the current state of unregulated internet poker play in Iowa, take into account consumer protection issues and explore responsible gaming measures. 

In other words, the report could explore questions such as: how might the state regulate online gaming? Through licensing? New or additional regulations? What might be the tax issues and implications? Should online gambling sites only be allowed to operate through an land-based casino in state - thereby ensuring it is Iowa casino businesses that benefit?

As reported by the www.DesMoinesRegister.com, the bill “set[s] the stage for a full debate next year on legalizing Internet poker within the state’s borders.” Iowa businesses may want to keep an eye on this report, as the actions taken in response to it will impact local economy. 

In fact, local businesses may get involved earlier than that, by providing feedback for the study this year. The bill provides that in preparing the report, the administrator of the gaming commission may consult with licensed Iowa casinos and race tracks, potential poker-hub operators and anyone else potentially interested in the preparation of the report. 

Thus, the commission could potentially reach out to anyone from Web developers and designers, to information technology specialists, to e-commerce experts and so on.

Some argue online gambling has the potential to boost the economy. For example, allowing local casinos to launch online gambling websites would likely introduce new revenue streams and create jobs. Of course, others worry about the negative effects of gambling, such as addiction, money laundering, minors gambling and so on. 

In apparent recognition of the harms, Senate File 526 also requires the state department of public health to prepare its own report regarding the societal impacts of internet poker in Iowa.

This report will be incorporated into the racing and gaming commission’s report, which is due Dec. 1.

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