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Online poker is already here-Like it or not

March 10, 2011
News-Herald View
Search “online poker game” on the internet. Yes-you guessed it- more than a million results - “About 18,300,000 results” according to Google, in fact.

Of course not all of these results are offering an online poker game you bet your own money in. Everything from”how to play”, reviews, to free sites to play to those you do indeed pay to play the game.

Some of the free sites are legitimate. You can play at absolutely no cost and win cash and prizes. The only catch is you usually watch a lot of advertisements. (I actually won something - a free, one-year subscription to a magazine devoted to professional wrestling. Seems like the tournaments for the big screen TVs and cash prizes are more competitive.)

One acquaintance who operated a legal poker room in California at one time turned to online poker several years ago - more profitable, more comfortable environment to play in (at home), and he claims more profitable because you get a lot of amateur competition was the claim

Iowa has “pioneer” status in the riverboat casino industry, forerunners of some which are now land-based.

Let’s review once again some of the “going-ons” in Iowa gambling since the inception of its legalization in the 1980s in the state.

•The blatant protection of Des Moines: No county except Polk was going to be allowed to have horse races. A Linn County initiative to build a track had financing and was ready to go near Central City, but, no. Only Polk County.

•And Shenandoah proposed the “Shenadome” for dog races to draw from the Kansas City market. No way. It would compete with Des Moines.

•Waterloo was saddled with winter racing dates for its Greyhound Park. Iowa weather doomed this from the start.

•Along came riverboat gambling.

Once again recall the chair of the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission riding the first riverboat casino up the Mississippi to Iowa and declaring, “I’ve never been in a casino before.”

No kidding.

Iowa’s new casino industry initially had a state-imposed daily betting limit on gamblers - $200 - to “protect the gambler.” That naivety offered safety all right.

Casino interests couldn’t believe their good fortune. The gamblers had no chance to get their lost wagers back.

It’s not hard to imagine that this protection had casino operators scrambling for management opportunities in Iowa.

And, the legislature continued to be good to Polk County. And all of the casinos as well have benefited.

•Once in trouble, the Polk County horse track was bailed out by allowing slots and then, live games. Same for Dubuque and Council Bluffs dog tracks. First slot machines, then table games.

•Hours for over-the-counter liquor sales were modified on Sunday to benefit the casinos.

•The legislature in the mid-1990s legalized “touch-play” machines which were installed a reported 6,000-8,000 strong in mainly taverns and convenience stores across the state.

The devices were the same as a slot machine- you had to “touch” a button. The casino interests cried out, the legislators pleaded innocence in not recognizing slot machines were slot machines and the devices were yanked.

•Smoking in public places. Illegal, except casinos, fair grounds and designated areas at the Iowa Veterans Home.

•Lately, the protection of the casino industry by the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission has been curious - “too many casinos.” Yet, Commissioner Katie Cutler, just replaced on the commission, hails from Council Bluffs. Home to three casinos and a dog track.

The poker legislation proposes to hand the Iowa ‘intranet’ poker games over to the casinos and the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission.

While there may be merit and it’s probably inevitable at some point for the state to allow poker on the internet, it’s time to let others be involved- not out-of-state casino management companies.

As I told Senator Kapucian and State Representative Horbach last week- “You could run ‘intranet’ or internet poker games out of a store front in Clutier.”

-J. Speer

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