Key Republican legislators say they’ve “lost confidence” in Iowa Lottery president Ed Stanek and its time for the governor to take action.
House Speaker Christopher Rants, a Republican from Sioux City, says the last straw for him came Thursday. Rants says Stanek suggested during a legislative committee meeting that it was legislators who were the impetus behind putting the controversial TouchPlay machines in convenience stores.
“For the director to mislead…is extremely troubling,” Rants says. “The Iowa Lottery has lost its credibility.”
Rants says it’s up to Governor Tom Vilsack to decide whether Stanek should lose his job. Rants is calling for the Lottery to lose its autonomy and instead be managed by the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission.
“There are a lot of legislators (who) are very angry this afternoon,” Rants says. “I think we’re in for a rigorous debate.”
Governor Vilsack says lawmakers can press ahead with a plan to put the Lottery under control of the Racing and Gaming Commission if they want to, but it wouldn’t work.
“The Lottery currently competes with and would continue to compete with gaming interests that are currently regulated by Racing and Gaming,” Vilsack says. “While there may not be a legal conflict of interest, it would certainly create the appearance of a conflict.”
In an e-mail to one lawmaker, Stanek said he had not said legislators had directed him to put the TouchPlay machines in convenience stores. Instead, Stanek said a couple of years ago he’d been told by lawmakers to meet with convenience store owners and the “amusement device” industry as there was talk that the computerized games — featuring black jack, poker and horse races, for example — were going to be banned.
After the meeting, this is what Stanek told reporters: Stanek said the Lottery was told to see how the Lottery might “ameliorate any negative business implications” that pulling the amusement devices might have. Stanek says the lottery put 20 TouchPlay machines in convenience stores as an experiment, found no problems with underage or gambling addicts, and he says “it seemed reasonable to proceed at that point.”
Late Thursday, Governor Vilsack told reporters he hasn’t reviewed all of what was said and alleged yesterday, but Stanek shouldn’t be judged by one day alone.
“Dr. Stanek has been an innovator and a creator of the Powerball itself and has served the state of Iowa effectively for over 20 years,” Vilsack said.
The governor says there have never been any questions raised about the integrity or honest about the way the Lottery has been run.
“I haven’t had a chance to look at the specific concerns that the speaker has raised and I would like the opportunity to do that out of respect for the speaker,” Vilsack says. “Having said that, I think if you were to check around the world and around the nation in terms of lotteries, Ed Stanek is well-respected.”