The top Republican in the Iowa House says the governor’s task force on the Iowa Lottery’s TouchPlay machines didn’t address the key issues that legislators soon must decide themselves. “I think the task force wasted a lot of time,” House Speaker Christopher Rants says. “When they decide the issue of whether or not the machines should remain in place is out-of-bounds, well, what have they been talking about?”
Rants, a Republican from Sioux City, wants to ban the machines and while he says the six people Governor Vilsack asked to serve on the task force were “good people who worked hard,” Rants says they failed to address three key issues: whether the machines should exist, whether there should be a limit on the number of machines and whether there should be some sort of voter approval before they’re allowed just as referendums are held before casinos may locate in a county.
Rants says it’s “unfortunate” the governor’s task force decided those issues were outside the charge Governor Vilsack laid at their feet. “If they were going to completely ignore those things, I wish we would have gone ahead and started this debate a month ago,” Rants says. Rants has set aside next Tuesday as decision day on TouchPlay in the Iowa House.
Leaders in the Senate say senators could debate the issue sometime next week, too. Senator Tom Courtney, a Democrat from Burlington who is co-chair of the Government Oversight Committee, says the task force report is having little bearing on what Courtney sees as a looming showdown on the issue. “It looks to me like we’re moving towards a vote on whether we’re going to keep TouchPlay or not keep TouchPlay, regardless of what the report says,” according to Courtney.
Courtney favors allowing TouchPlay machines in Iowa, with some restrictions. “I’m hearing more and more now individuals (who) find kids playing them; mothers holding a kid, letting the kid push the buttons,” Courtney says. “We’ve got to fix that.”
Courtney says he gets lots of e-mail every day from small business owners in rural Iowa who are making several hundred dollars a month on the TouchPlay machines. “Now this legislature says time after time after time that they’re for small business, well, here we are,” Courtney says. “I think we ought to figure out how to make it work.”
Senate Democrat and Republican leaders haven’t decided yet when the Senate’s TouchPlay debate will occur, but Senate Co-Leader Mike Gronstal says it could happen as early as Tuesday — the same day as the House.