Last week, gamblers put over nine-and-a-half million dollars into the Iowa Lottery’s TouchPlay machines. Figures released today (Friday) by Lottery officials show the state’s take from the TouchPlay program in the past seven months is nearly 19 million dollars.
Lottery vice president Mary Neubauer met with reporters this afternoon. She cited figures showing there are just over six-thousand TouchPlay machines now in operation in Iowa. And there are two-thousand-eight-hundred-32 Iowa businesses offering TouchPlay machines to their patrons. One quarter of the machines are in Kum N Go locations or leased to other businesses by Royal Financial — the company owned by Bill Krause, the founder of the Kum N Go chain.
In the past seven months, TouchPlay machines have taken in two-hundred-12 million dollars. About 133-million has been paid out in prizes since July. The Lottery released over 13-hundred pages of financial data about the TouchPlay take; many businesses reported how each TouchPlay machine performed. “That’s everything that has been requested of us that we are free to release at this time,” Neubauer says. Meanwhile, the “TouchPlay Coalition” released data indicating that on average, gamblers plug 100-thousand dollars into each TouchPlay machine annually.
Mike Triplett, a lobbyist for Bally’s — one of the companies that makes the TouchPlay machines, is also the spokesman for the TouchPlay Coalition. Triplett says when you factor in all the expenses, the businesses that own the machines make, on average, about 16-hundred dollars per machine per year. “Businesses…invested a lot of money in TouchPlay and they’re very happy to do this because they see a potential for this business growing, but at 16-hundred dollars per machine per year, no one is going to become filthy rich quick.”
The state owns none of the TouchPlay machines. They’re owned by private companies, and Triplett says those companies have already invested 85 million dollars in TouchPlay, and the bills that cleared committees in the Iowa House and Senate this past week — bills that would ban TouchPlay machines in Iowa — are a slap at those businesses. “You can imagine how everybody else would feel if their private business were to do something legally and then all of the sudden the legislature decides ‘Well, wait a second. We decided that we don’t want to do this,'” Triplett says. “That’s why we’re a little bit concerned that the legislature might be going down the wrong path when they talk about banning these machines outright.”
The Lottery’s take is 24 percent of the net revenue from the TouchPlay machines — that’s what’s paid into the state treasury. But as for how the rest of the TouchPlay revenue is split, Neubauer says the Lottery is not privy to the contracts among the businesses that made the machines, the businesses that purchased the machines, the businesses that lease the machines or the retailers that are offering the machines to the public.
While the Lottery’s data dump was voluminous, some of the companies involved in the TouchPlay program resisted the release of detailed financial records. Others provided overall revenue numbers but balked at providing machine-by-machine details. “Some of the companies I believe have a concern that if everyone knew exactly what the split of revenue is in a particular locations, someone could try to go in and undercut them for the business…There was also a public safety concern,” Neubauer says. “If the numbers were released on a machine-by-machine basis, the safety of workers or the equipment itself could be compromised.”
The TouchPlay Coalition released cumulative data — averages — rather than publicly disclosing the details of the contracts among the businesses involved in TouchPlay.