Two Republicans and one of the Democrats running for governor say the new Iowa Lottery “TouchPlay” machines should be pulled from convenience stores, bars, restaurants and grocery stores. Republican candidate Bob Vander Plaats, a Sioux City business consultant, says the machines “invaded” Iowa overnight. Vander Plaats says, “As a father of four boys and a former educator, I’m, I’m outraged by the TouchPlay machines. I think they made them look like a video arcade. And I think They’re extremely attractive to young people and young children in particular. And I think they need to be removed. I don’t there was any official process that anybody went by before the went ahead and installed the TouchPlay machines all around the state.”
Governor Vilsack has asked the Lottery to put a moratorium on adding any new machines and has appointed a task force to study if the machines indeed need to be regulated like slot machines. Vander Plaats says that’s not good enough.
He says, “I don’t think the moratorium and study does anything.” Vander Plaats says the machines should be there in the first place and should be removed.
Vander Plaats wouldn’t even support different types of TouchPlay machines that don’t so closely resemble slot machines. Vander Plaats says, “I’ve been pretty clear from day one of my candidacy that I am not in favor of any expansion of gambling. I would look at that as being an expansion of gambling, so No, I would not be in favor of it.”
Vander Plaats says he’d get rid of the machines if he were governor. He says, “I definitely would lead the Legislature and use the governor’s office as the bully pulpit of saying this is not the way Iowa plays. We don’t tell our kids ‘wait until your ship comes in.’ We talk to our kids about getting, being well educated, getting good jobs, working hard, and being innovative and creative in making their living. Not waiting on some form of gambling to save the way for them.” Some business owners say the Tough-Play machines have helped generate traffic and brought in more revenue. Vander Plaats says his overall economic development plan would do more to help those businesses.
The other Republican running for governor, Congressman Jim Nussle, says if he were Iowa’s chief executive, he’d immediately order that the TouchPlay machines be yanked. “You spend a lifetime developing your reputation but you can lose it overnight depending on what you do and we can lose it as a state very quickly as well,” Nussle says. “When you walk into a convenience store to pick up a gallon of milk or buy some gas and it looks like a casino in there, you can lose that reputation.”
Nussle says he’s told Republican legislators to act quickly. “I don’t think we have any time to waste,” Nussle says. With gambling casinos dotting the map and now these new TouchPlay machines, Nussle says Iowa politicians are become addicted to gambling for the tax revenue. “We’re focused on people having an addiction to gambling, but what’s really happening, I believe, is that Iowa politicians are beginning to develop this addiction to gambling revenue,” Nussle says.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed Fallon agrees with Nussle and Vander Plaats. “I’ve never supported expanding gambling. It’s not a wealth-generating industry. It’s really a house of cards that will eventually fall in on itself,” Fallon says. “While I have empathy for the small businesses that have closed or lost businesses because of the big casinos, this is not the way to help small business.”
Fallon isn’t calling for the “immediate” removal of the machines, but Fallon believes the legislature never gave the Lottery the authority to install TouchPlay machines around the state and may have to pass a bill making that clear. Fallon says if state officials really cared about small businesses they’d do other things, like plug more money into Main Street redevelopment grants rather than “spreading slot machines out further and further across the state.”
Three of the other Democrats who’re running for governor — former Department of Economic Development director Michael Blouin, Secretary of State Chet Culver and Ag Secretary Patty Judge — all say a decision about the machines should wait until a task force Governor Vilsack appointed to wrangle with the issue comes out with its report. Vilsack appointed the six-member task force this past Monday and has asked the group to make its recommendation within 60 days.