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Iowa Senate approves Internet poker measure

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- A measure that allows existing gambling operations in Iowa to offer Internet poker passed the Senate on Tuesday night.

Supporters said residents already gamble online and the proposed bill would create oversight through new regulations. It also would bring in additional state tax revenue.

The Senate approved the measure on a 29 to 20 vote.

It would allow the state's casinos and racetracks to offer Internet poker. The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission would be in charge of the Internet gambling.

Projections show that legalizing Internet poker could generate between $3 million and $13 million in state tax revenue. The commission, which regulates gambling in the state, has issued a study outlining how Iowa could structure Internet poker.

The measure now goes to the House.

If approved by the House and signed by Gov. Terry Branstad, Iowa would become one of the first states to establish such a system.

Amendments that would have diverted the new revenue to the state's roads and another that would have banned smoking on casino floors did not pass.

Sen. Jeff Danielson, D-Cedar Falls said the bill was a thoughtful solution that addresses the problem of unregulated online gambling.

"We want to protect Iowa consumers and we want to protect the investment Iowa has made up to this point." Danielson said.

Support for the measure comes despite a February poll by The Des Moines Register that showed 28 percent supported the idea, while 69 percent opposed it. In a Register poll a year ago, 73 percent opposed the legalization.