A state legislator from Cedar Rapids soon will open House hearings into the controversy over the Iowa Lottery’s TouchPlay machines. Republican Representative Jeffrey Elgin will lead the seven-person panel investigating the machines. They’ll start by reviewing the law the legislature passed allowing the Lottery to use video lottery machines to dispense pull-tab tickets.

Elgin, who trained as a C-P-A and now owns an investment firm, says he enters the process with an open mind. “It’s a very emotional issue right now, pretty much the question: are these slot machines?” Elgin says. “I don’t have enough information right now to form an objective opinion.” Elgin says even if the Lottery is complying with the law and the machines are legal, legislators will have to decide whether the TouchPlay machines are an acceptable expansion of gambling in Iowa.

Elgin comes from Linn County where voters rejected a gambling referendum, a result that scuttled efforts to bring a riverboat casino to Cedar Rapids.
“You vote no in a county saying you don’t want gaming interests in the county and then you end up having these types of machines at your local convenience stores — is that or not a violation of at least the intent of the vote?” Elgin asks.

Elgin has never sponsored legislation to expand or restrict gambling, and he is not revealing how he voted in that Linn County referendum. Elgin plans to hold dozens of open meetings at the statehouse on the TouchPlay issue and has no timetable for action. The other members of the committee are Representatives Libby Jacobs of West Des Moines, Sandra Greiner of Keota, Rod Roberts of Carroll, Brian Quirk of New Hampton, Todd Taylor of Cedar Rapids, and Wesley Whithead of Sioux City.