The Senate State Government Committee has unanimously passed a bill that would yank all the Iowa Lottery’s TouchPlay machines from the state. Senator Larry McKibben, a Republican from Marshalltown, says he’s never gotten so many phone calls, letters and e-mail about an issue. “I have never had mothers and grandparents contact me on an issue so important to their heart and mind,” McKibben says.
McKibben says the machines are just like slot machines and their presence in stores is tainting Iowa’s wholesome image. “There simply should not be slot machines in every nook and cranny of the state of Iowa,” McKibben says. “I simply think that we ought not to be a state of corn, beans and slot machines and that’s where we’re headed, folks, if we don’t end this right now.”
Senate Co-President Jack Kibbie, a Democrat from Emmetsburg, is no fan of the TouchPlay machines, either. “They’re way out of control,” Kibbie says. “We need to back up and have a full-fledged legislative debate on…these machines.” But others, like Senator Wally Horn — a Democrat from Cedar Rapids, expect legislators to allow some of the machines to remain in operation. “This is probably one of the bills that if there are 150 legislators, there are about 150 different ideas on it,” Horn says. Horn says it’s wrong to start the legislative debate on TouchPlay with a bill that would gets rid of the machines.
Senator Mark Zieman, a Republican from Postville, worries about the message this sends to the businesses that invested in the TouchPlay machines. “They were led to believe, rightly or wrongly, that the state wanted to partner with a partner in promoting this…industry,” Zieman says. “Now, we’re going to tell that same group of people that made the investment that we’re going to pull the rug out from under them, so I think that’s a concern we have to deal with.”
Senator Jack Hatch, a Democrat from Des Moines, says lawmakers should keep in mind the impact these machines are having on gambling addicts. Hatch says people are becoming addicted to gambling “a lot easier, a lot faster and with such convenience” because the TouchPlay machines are everywhere. “We have a problem out there dealing with people who cannot control their addiction,” Hatch says.
On Tuesday, the House State Government Committee endorsed a bill that would also ban TouchPlay machines from the state and give retailers 30 days to remove the machines. The chairman of that committee called the proposal a “starting point” for continued discussions about TouchPlay. Lottery officials estimate the state will bring in 30 million dollars this year and another 45 million dollars next year in TouchPlay revenue.