The chair of the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission says there needs to be some type of regulation on the Iowa Lottery’s TouchPlay machines — but the commission as a whole won’t take a position on the issue. The Touch Play machines look identical to the casino slot machines that the Racing and Gaming Commission regulate. Commission chair Diane Hamilton of Storm Lake says that’s prompted calls from concerned Iowans.
Hamilton says, “Most of the contacts I’ve had, people are angry. They thought that slot machines were confined to riverboats and they don’t understand what these machines are and why they are in every restaurant, liquor establishment and convenience stores.” Hamilton says she explains to people that the commission has no jurisdiction over the Touch Play machines. But Hamilton says personally she’d like to see some type of control over the machines. She says, “I do think they need to be regulated…If you have those in a tavern, on a busy night it will be very difficult to regulate who’s playing those machines.”
Hamilton cites her hometown as a good example of how underage kids might gamble with the Touch Play machines. She says people under 21 are allowed in the drinking establishments, but aren’t allowed to drink. She says, “How do you keep people under 21 from gambling? If you’ve got a crowded bar, it’s going to be really hard to regulate that.”
While some are calling for the immediate removal of the Touch Play machines — Hamilton says that’s a difficult issue too. Hamilton says when she first came on the Racing and Gaming Commission, the commission got sued over a decision to force casinos to take out their A-t-M machines. Hamilton predicts the same thing could happen with the Touch Play machines as businesses will say that’s taking away from their revenue. Hamilton says the Touch Play machines are apparently very lucrative for businesses. She says, “I was told a small establishment in Storm Lake was taking in 30-thousand dollars in every month (from Touch Play machines), and they were clearing 15-hundred dollars a week. You know for a small business owner, that’s huge.”
While Hamilton personally thinks the Touch Play machines should be regulated, she says the Racing and Gaming Commission will not make any recommendation on the issue. The Commission is sending a form letter to people who call and ask about the machines that tells them to contact the Iowa Lottery or the Iowa Gaming Association with their concerns.