The task force Governor Tom Vilsack appointed to help determine the future of the Iowa Lottery’s TouchPlay machines held a public hearing this (Friday) afternoon that at times sounded like a Gamblers Anonymous meeting.
Teresa Erickson of West Des Moines told the crowd gathered in the State Historical Building’s auditorium that she tried to commit suicide last month because she lost 73-thousand dollars gambling. “I could just as easily be your mom, your sister, your wife,” Erickson said.
Sixty-six-year-old Wayne Davies of Waukee called himself a compulsive gambler who is afraid to go into stores that have the TouchPlay machines. “If I was to get on one of those machines, I probably couldn’t quit,” Davies said. Tom Coates, a long-time gambling opponent from Des Moines who runs a credit counseling service, said video lottery machines are a very addictive form of gambling. “The idea that this is harmless entertainment isn’t right,” Coates said. Coates quoted a consultant who called video lottery machines the “crack cocaine” of gambling because of the speed of play.
But small business owners like Laura Cobbs of Brighton argued TouchPlay was a boon for her. “I have five convenience stores, three of which are in towns smaller than one- thousand people,” Cobbs said. “The revenue from TouchPlay can mean the difference…between being able to keep your doors open to not being able to.”
Dawn Carlson, a spokesman for the state’s convenience store industry, says TouchPlay machines are helping many stores make a profit. “Iowa’s small businesses deserve the right to responsibly offer legitimate, legal products to their customers,” Carlson said. The task force includes representatives from the Lottery, the casino industry and will meet two more times this month before presenting its recommendations to the governor.