A key Republican legislator says the governor should at the very least reprimand the Iowa Lottery’s CEO for launching a project that has put 4,500 Lottery “TouchPlay” machines in grocery stores, bars, restaurants and convenience stores throughout the state.
“To be honest, a lot of legislators feel that Ed Stanek has pulled a fast one on us,” House Speaker Christopher Rants says. Rants, a Republican from Sioux City, says by law the Lottery can market “pull tab” machines, but he says the “TouchPlay” machines look like slot machines to him. “I understand that they get into a lot of jargon because (the winning number) is not a randomly-generated number,” Rants says. “To me, it looks like a slot machine.” Rants says legislators are hearing from Iowans who want to know when casino-style gambling was legalized in every corner of the state.
On the other hand, Rants says it will be difficult to “pull the rug out” from under the 84 Iowa businesses which went into partnership with the Iowa Lottery to manufacture and place the “TouchPlay” machines in each of Iowa’s 99 counties. Rants says he is frustrated with Stanek, the head of the Iowa Lottery, and Rants suggests Stanek tried to keep lawmakers in the dark about the TouchPlay machines. “I believe Mr. Stanek had to know this was going to be controversial,” Rants says.
According to Rants, Lottery officials have shown legislators demos of Lottery products before they’ve gone on the market in the past. “At no time did a lottery official show up in my office, show us a picture of a machine made by Bally’s and say ‘This is what we want to put out in every bar, tavern, grocery store and convenience store,'” Rants says. “That was never in the mind of any legislator that I’m aware of and quite frankly, I have a tough time believing that the governor thought that is what was going to happen.”
Governor Tom Vilsack has appointed a six-member task force to study the issue and make recommendations for how to proceed. Rants ridicules that approach. “Frankly, that’s trying to walk down the middle, trying to stradle the fence,” Rants says. “You’re either going to have (the TouchPlay machines) or you’re going to roll ’em all back.” Rants says the TouchPlay controversy will force lawmakers to consider and debate a full-range of gambling issues. “It’s not an official General Assembly unless we have a gambling debate and we absolutely are going to have a full-blown gambling debate this session,” Rants says. “It’s unavoidable.” Rants made his comments on Iowa Public Television.
A spokesperson from the Iowa Lottery has not yet returned Radio Iowa’s request for a response to Rants’ statements.