Democrats Push Gambling Expansion

A bill suggested by House Majority Leader McCarthy would allow Iowa’s 17 state-regulated casinos to add popular card games like poker and blackjack in ballrooms and convention rooms where gambling is currently not allowed. Some of these casinos already have “poker rooms,” but they are too small to hold large poker tournaments. “This is not new gaming; this is existing gaming,” McCarthy said in The Des Moines Register. McCarthy went on to say that this expansion would increase tax revenue for the state.

The new poker tournaments suggested by the bill would be held periodically. They would be in casino ballrooms and convention rooms that are separate from where slot machines are. Nobody under the age of 21 would be allowed in the room and there would be no smoking. McCarthy did not say how much Iowa stood to gain from the gambling expansion, but he guessed it would be in the tens of millions.

McCarthy said this is not the only change in gambling that will be considered this session, others include:

  • Striking the requirement that localities vote every eight years on whether to keep a casino, and allowing casinos to opt out of such referendums for a state fee. Localities would still have the ability to petition for a referendum if they choose.
  • Lowering the gambling setoff threshold to $3,000. Casinos currently run the names of those winning over $10,000 in a database to check if they owe any debt to the state and withhold the debt amount.
  • Allowing “advance deposit wagering” which would let gamblers, who are not physically at the casino, wager on races if they have an account.

All of Iowa’s state-regulated casinos are due for referendum votes this November. McCarthy expects this legislation to be debated in late February or the beginning of March.