The Iowa Lottery’s president now says he wishes he would have been more selective about where the Lottery’s TouchPlay machines were placed. TouchPlay machines look and sound like slot machines but dispense predetermined winning lottery tickets.
Lottery president Ed Stanek says in hindsight, he should have only allowed the machines in businesses that primarily serve adults only. “It’s not necessarily because of the experience we’ve had being a negative one because the retailers have done an outstanding job of prohibiting underage play, but it’s partially a matter of perception and partially a matter of the machines are put in more obtrusive locations than need to be,” Stanek says. “If there were in an age-restricted area then at least teh folks who aren’t interested in playing those Lottery devices and buying our tickets from them wouldn’t be faced with seeing and hearing them.”
Stanek testified today (Thursday) before a legislative committee and he told lawmakers that within two weeks, a company will begin testing drivers license scanning devices for TouchPlay machines. That would allow the machines to block access to both minors and gambling addicts who ban themselves from playing. The devices read any drivers license that has a magnetic strip on the back, and 48 of the 50 states now issue licenses with that strip.
Stanek also told lawmakers he had been just “weeks away” from placing his own moratorium on TouchPlay games when the governor stepped in and ordered one. Stanek says he didn’t want to “saturate” the market with the machines. “We were getting to the point, knowing how many machines were in the field that we felt we needed to take a break, see where we were…and ask (legislators) for some guidance,” Stanek says. There are about five-thousand of the TouchPlay machines in convenience stores, bars, restaurants and grocery stores today, and Stanek says he was considering that number as a cut-off point.
When the governor ordered the moratorium, Stanek had his staff do an inventory of the number of machines that had been installed or were on-order, and Stanek says he was surprised to find another five-thousand were in the pipeline. “It was unanticipated public demand,” Stanek says. “We didn’t think there’d be so much demand for them.” Stanek says the Lottery didn’t have a handle on the numbers because once a retailer is licensed to carry TouchPlay, they can install up to four machines if the machines are in an age-restricted area.
So, he says many stores started with one, then added more as the game became popular. A House committee investigating whether the TouchPlay machines are legal will meet for the first time next week. A task force assembled by the governor to review the controversy will hold a public hearing on Friday the 10th.