The head of the Iowa Lottery says the state will lose millions if legislators decide to yank the TouchPlay Lottery machines from grocery stores, bars, restaurants and convenience stores around the state. Ed Stanek predicts the state would lose more than 45 million dollars in Lottery revenue from TouchPlay if the machines are banned. The machines have been even more profitable that Stanek and his staff had predicted.
Stanek says the controversy over the machines isn’t surprising. “When we started the Lottery in 1985 people were saying that our scratch tickets were paper slot machines. In 1986, we started our paper pull-tabs and people called those paper slot machines. This isn’t too much different than that although the product is somewhat more visible because it’s more glitzy,” Stanek says. “That makes it more attractive to some but it also to some people who don’t want to see it probably makes it more of a nuisance and I’m going to try to be mindful of both sides and see what we can do to come to a reasonable balance.”
Stanek testified yesterday (Thursday) before a legislative committee. While some lawmakers have claimed they were hoodwinked and the Lottery lacks the authority to distribute the machines, others like Senator Bob Dvorsky, a Democrat from Coralville, says lawmakers gave Stanek the authority to employ “video lottery” machines a couple of years ago.”Dr. Stanek is one of the leaders in gaming in the nation and we asked him to proceed and he really proceeded in an efficient manner and is really out there,” Dvorsky says.Dvorsky jokingly says the TouchPlay uproar shows Stanek is “too good” at his job.
Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs has predicted lawmakers will not ban the machines, but likely will cap the number that may be placed around the state. Stanek says the Lottery may do that on its own anyway. “Any business can reach a level of saturation where additional investment doesn’t produce the appropriate return,” Stanek says.
Last week, the Lottery started testing a device which requires players to insert their drivers license into the TouchPlay machine to turn it on. It’s a means of preventing people under the age of 21 from playing.”We’re trying to be a good citizen, socially, so we want to do everything we can to prevent underage gaming. We want to prevent exposure to young people,” Stanek says. “Although we haven’t been seeing any significant problems thus far, we need to be ready in case they were to occur.”
There are about 45-hundred TouchPlay machines in the state now and businesses have signed contracts for another 55-hundred. Stanek says at least 90 percent of those as-yet-to-be-placed TouchPlay machines are headed to bars.