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Is the Legalization of Online Poker Possible for Iowa?


This news story was published on March 25, 2019.
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The online poker market continues to grow with more and more states across America, drafting bills that would allow players to take part in this activity legally. There are over a dozen states that are considering the legalization of online poker and a few that have already taken the leap. Will Iowa join either of these groups any time soon? We’ll take a look at the possibilities.

Where is Online Poker Legal Right Now?

Currently, online poker has been made legal in a handful of states. So, if you live in any of the following locations, you’ll be playing poker from a regulated market:

  • Delaware
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • Pennsylvania

The first state to launch legal online poker was Nevada in 2012, and it was followed closely by Delaware. The next year, New Jersey launched its state-regulated online casinos and poker sites. Finally, Pennsylvania made online poker games legal in 2018 and it is likely that the state’s regulated sites will be open to the public by spring 2019.

What Does Online Poker Legislation Mean for Players?

In a state where online poker has been legalized, gaming sites must be licensed by local operators. They pay a licensing fee and taxes on their gaming revenue while adhering to strict rules regarding their games, security and customer service. As such, legalization provides the local government with an additional source of income while offering players a reliable place to play poker online.

If you’re in a state with an unregulated poker market, this means that there are no sites available to you that are licensed by your local gaming commission. Instead, only offshore poker sites can be accessed. However, most of these sites have licenses similar to those obtained by operators in regulated states – and there is federally no legal recourse for players who access offshore poker rooms. So, legalization of online poker tends to make more of a difference for the operator than it does for the player, as mentioned by OnlinePokerAmerica.com.

Iowa’s Current Online Poker Laws

Gambling in Iowa doesn’t go back a very long way. It was only in 1983 that the state allowed wagering on horse and dog racing, followed by a legislation to create the Iowa Lottery in 1985. By 1991, the first riverboat casino was opened, and it was soon decided that casino gambling is allowed so long as it takes place on a reservation, riverboat or racetrack. Poker is also permitted at these locations.  

In 2012, Iowa Senate approved a bill that would allow operators to offer online poker to residents but the hope of legalizing the activity was short-lived. By 2013, the bill was thrown out.

Since then, there has been no activity with regards to online poker legislation. So, as it stands, the legalization of online poker in Iowa seems unlikely any time in the near future.

Other Gambling Developments

There still seems to be hope for online gambling in the form of lottery sales. The new head of Iowa’s state lottery, Matt Strawn, has made a push for the legalization of lottery sales online. The move would modernize Iowa’s Lottery offering and bring the organization in line with other states that allow residents to purchase their tickets remotely. While lottery sales were at a record high in 2018, Strawn worries that sales will slow down unless the Iowa Lottery updates its operations.

The issue of sports betting legalization is also on the table. Ever since the Supreme Court ruled that the 1992 federal ban on sports betting was a violation of New Jersey’s rights, several other states like Delaware, Ohio, New York and California started drafting bills that would legalize sports betting. Iowa is one of them, and the state seems to be close to providing local punters with the chance to wager on their favorite sports.

In February 2019, two sports betting bills were advanced through state legislature. The bills propose a tax rate of 6.75% on gross gaming revenue, and the authorization of both mobile and online betting – so long as players sign up in person.

Should online betting be permitted by law, this could mean that there is hope for the legalization of online poker in Iowa. However, there are currently no bills on the table.

If You Live in Iowa and Want to Play Poker Online…

Iowa’s current laws state that it is illegal for gaming operators to run poker and casino sites from within the state. However, players are still legally allowed to play poker at offshore sites.

If you do choose to play at an offshore poker website, it’s important to remember that research is key. You have to find a website that has a certification from a reputable licensing body. Locations like Malta, Gibraltar, Kahnawake and Costa Rica license online gambling websites and hold their licenses to a high standard of customer service.

It is up to you to find an online poker operator that you trust, and there are several ways to find out which operators are safe and reliable. Firstly, visiting poker forums will help you get an idea of which sites are highly rated among players and which ones should be avoided. You can also read in-depth reviews from gaming experts who are committed to providing players with honest and unbiased advice about which online poker rooms are the most reliable and safest places to play.

There are plenty of options for poker fans in Iowa, but regulation still seems like a long way away. Offshore sites are always an option, as well as playing poker in person at casinos or taking part in home games.

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