The top leader in the Iowa House says the amount of money poured into the Iowa Lottery’s TouchPlay machines in the past seven months is “staggering” and lawmakers may start making more regulatory decisions about the state’s gambling industry. Last Friday, Iowa Lottery officials revealed 212-million dollars has been plugged into the TouchPlay machines since July.
House Speaker Christopher Rants, a Republican from Sioux City, says that is “staggering” when you break that number out and calculate how much that is per Iowan. “That’s a very high number based considering (the) a short period of time that we’ve had them,” he says.
Rants says of the entire amount of money that’s going into the machines, a “fairly small” amount is going to taxpayers. Of the 212-million that’s been put into the TouchPlay machines, the state’s “take” has been nearly 19 million through the end of February. “I think it will raise a question with some lawmakers about whether or not that percentage is the correct percentage,” Rants says. “But more importantly I think lawmakers are going to look at these numbers and try to figure out just exactly how much money is being taken out of the state, how much of those dollars would otherwise be circulating in our economy someplace and is now being sucked into a handful of pockets.”
According to Rants, there’s “growing frustration” among lawmakers that the final decisions about how much gaming there is in Iowa and where it’s going to be is being made by state boards and commissions. Rants says the combination of this TouchPlay controversy coming quickly after the State Racing and Gaming Commission’s decision to granted four new casino licenses is prompting legislators to think they should be the ones making the decisions about the scope of gambling in Iowa.
Rants favors banning the TouchPlay machines, but he says on gambling issues there’s no way of knowing the outcome until legislators cast and count their votes during floor debate.