The two top leaders in the Iowa House say the companies that manufactured the Iowa Lottery’s “TouchPlay” machines could easily place them elsewhere if the machines are banned here. The manufacturers of the machines say that isn’t so — but House Speaker Christopher Rants, a Republican from Sioux City, contends the machines can be easily resold.
“There is a home for these machines someplace else,” Rants says. “Just because we don’t want to have slot machines on every street corner in the state of Iowa doesn’t mean that there isn’t a home for that slot machine in another state. There is an avenue for those folks to recoup their investment.”
But Mike Triplett, a spokesmen for Bally’s — one of the companies that makes the TouchPlay machines, say the TouchPlay machines would be “worth 10-cents-on-the-dollar” because the insides of a TouchPlay machine are completely different from a slot machine. “I can’t imagine anybody paying seven thousand dollars for cabinetry and flashing lights,” Triplett says.
Rants believes the companies that made the TouchPlay machines may have already pulled in enough money to cover their costs. That’s why Rants says legislators want to see the financial details of the TouchPlay contracts. “You know, a lot of times (when) you buy machinery…you usually expect some sort of five year payback or you have some expectation on payback,” Rants says. “One of the things we’re trying to get at is how much of that payback have people who’ve invested actually recouped. And exactly who is getting that payback? Is it Bally’s in Nevada or is it actual the local merchant or the local retailer?” Many of the financial details of the games are to be released later today.
House Republican Leader Chuck Gipp of Decorah says he’s been told converting the TouchPlay machines for other gambling venues would be a snap. “There’s a computer chip in there that you change and these can be put on riverboats in Mississippi to replace the ones that were destroyed (by hurricanes) there or the four new gambling facilities that were authorized in Iowa,” Gipp says.
But the president of Oasis Gaming says their machines have been “specifically manufactured” for TouchPlay and cannot be converted into slot machines. Scott Henneman says slot machines operate with a computer chip, but TouchPlay machines operate with a computer hard-drive. Rants, the House Speaker, has no idea how this TouchPlay controversy will play out. “You’ve got a lot of different members with a lot of different opinions,” Rants says. “I think the two State Government Committees both, in the House and Senate, have sent a strong message…that they don’t think this is the right kind of thing for Iowa.”
But Rants acknowledges other Republicans don’t want to hurt the hundreds of Iowa business owners who say TouchPlay revenue is keeping their business afloat. “We’ve got members out there who are concerned about their local retail establishments and the revenue (TouchPlay) brings,” Rants says. There’s a news conference scheduled for later today where TouchPlay businesses will release their financial information.