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Issue Date: Vol. 51, No. 3, March 2011, Posted On: 3/2/2011

Four States Mull Online Poker Legalization

Marcus Webb
Terry Branstad, Joseph Abruzzo, Jeff Danielson, Ben Tulchin., Chris Christie, Iowa, California, Florida, online poker, New Jersey, California General Assembly, poker legalization bill, Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission, Internet poker, video poker, online video poker, gaming legalization, Internet video poker, Internet gaming, Internet gambling, online gambling, amusements

Bills to legalize online gambling have now been introduced in the legislatures of Iowa, California and Florida, and an online poker legalization bill has passed in New Jersey.

The potential for legalization of online gambling has grown stronger in recent months as state officials nationwide struggle with multibillion-dollar deficits, along with growing public antipathy to both higher taxes and cuts in state programs and services.

The most recent effort to legalize online gambling is embodied in a propsed Iowa bill to legalize online video poker. Sen. Jeff Danielson (D-Waterloo), chairman of the state government committee, which will hold hearings on the bill, introduced it in late February. | SEE STORY

The measure would task the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission with creating and regulating a new, single-vendor Internet poker network that state-regulated casinos could use to operate online poker games. Danielson's bill is so new that at presstime it had not received an official bill number.

Supporters said that Iowa could generate up to $35 million in annual taxes from legalizing online poker. At presstime a spokesman for Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R) said he has not endorsed or opposed the bill.

In Florida, state Rep. Joseph Abruzzo (D-Wellington) has proposed legalizing online poker for the state's existing 23 pari-mutuels racing organizations through a state-run Internet hub. A Florida Senate committee said the state could realize nearly $37 million annually once the poker market is mature.

In California's General Assembly, two bills pending to legalize online poker for players in the state are pending. One would restrict operators to existing card clubs, racetracks or Indian casinos in the state.

Supporters say California could generate $100 million a year in state taxes from poker legalization. Some 66% of California voters support the idea, according to pollster Ben Tulchin.

In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie has until Thursday, March 3, to veto or sign an online poker legalization bill passed in January by the state Legislature.

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