The Iowa Senate has voted 40-to-10 to ban the Iowa Lottery’s TouchPlay machines.
In addition, the proposal that cleared the Senate would impose an 89 percent state tax on TouchPlay revenue if TouchPlay owners and retailers go to court, try to overturn the ban, and get a court injunction that would keep the machines going until the court feud is settled.
Senator Mary Lundby, a Republican from Marion, argued legislators and the lottery made a mistake with TouchPlay. “But I’m man enough to admit I made a mistake. I made a huge mistake…and I am perfectly willing to fix that mistake and do what’s right for Iowa,” Lundby said during Monday night’s debate.
Senator Larry McKibben, a Republican from Marshalltown, said there’s been a “tidal wave of public opinion” against the machines. “This is (an) historic night for Iowans,” McKibben said. “For the first time in 20 years, a gaming expansion will be turned back.”
Senator Bob Brunkhorst, a Republican from Waverly, said Iowa should be pushing its strengths, and gambling isn’t one. “I don’t want to see…the motto of the state of Iowa (be) ‘what happens in Iowa stays in Iowa,'” Brunkhorst said. “That is not a motto that we should have or strive for.”
Senator Brad Zahn, a Republican from Urbandale, said he voted for the ban because he’s morally opposed to gambling. “I’ve said before that gambling is not economic development,” Zahn said. “It’s blood money is what it is and this legislature is addicted to it.”
But the 10 Senators who opposed the bill said the ban was a mistake. Senator Steve Kettering, a Republican from Lake View, said senators were picking out-of-state interests that profit from Iowa’s casinos over the Iowa businesses that invested in TouchPlay. “It’s sad what we are saying to Iowans tonight. It’s sad what we are saying to small business,” Kettering said. “Tonight, we turned off one more light in the countryside.”
Senator Mark Zieman, a Republican from Postville, agreed that senators were picking the casino’s side in this fight. “I think it’s a turf war that we’ve gotten into. I think it’s big versus little,” Zieman said. “I think this is a travesy that we’ve done here, especially to our small businesses.”
Zieman said while there have been plenty of complaints about the $212 million that has been poured into the TouchPlay machines in the past eight months, no one has complained about the $14 billion — and that’s billion with a “b” — that was wagered in the casinos last year.
Senator Keith Kreiman, a Democrat from Bloomfield, said the lawyers will have a field day because the state was breaking its promise to the businesses which invested in TouchPlay. “I join those who believe that this bill is a disservice to our small business owners in our communities,” Kreiman says. “We are saying that…we don’t care about promises made, we don’t care about contracts that have been signed.”
Senator Jack Hatch, a Democrat from Des Moines, rejected those arguments. “The question should not be: ‘How will small businesses recoupe their investment?'” Hatch said. “The question should be: How will Iowa families recoupe their losses?'”
Senator Jeff Angelo, a Republican from Creston, said lawmakers should have opted for more restrictions rather than an outright ban. “But tonight we’re not seeking, really, the middle ground on this particular issue and I think that’s a shame,” Angelo said. “I think that in any controversial issue when we identify a problem we always address it through common-sense regulation.”
The Iowa House will debate the issue Tuesday, and House Speaker Christopher Rants says the “winds are blowing pretty strong” in favor of a ban.