Radio Iowa’s O.Kay Henderson found some of the business owners involved in the Iowa Lottery’s TouchPlay project are still trying to process how quickly the state pulled the plug on the machines, and many are considering the option of suing the state.
Mark Jacobs of B-and-B Games in Ankeny is in the business of games for bars and restaurants — things like pool tables and dart boards. His competitors started offering TouchPlay machines to his customers, so he got in the game, too. “Back in October of 2005 we decided we had to get those games, too,” Jacobs says.
Jacobs bought 98 TouchPlay machines and guesses he owes about 700-thousand dollars. “We’re now not going to be able to make any payments on those games,” Jacobs says. “(We) were completely blindsided, had no idea there’d be a 360-degree turn and we’d be financially ruined.” Jacobs says he’ll do everything he can to try to survive — he does own other businesses — but he will have to let five employees go soon. He just canceled the health care insurance for his workers to try to reduce expenses.
On Monday, the governor signed the bill into law that bans TouchPlay machines from the state on May 4th. But legislators and the state’s attorney general are talking about concessions that would help TouchPlay owners make a bit more by keeping the machines in play ’til September.
Jacobs says he’s hoping for a more “graceful” ending. “It took four-and-a-half years for this thing to evolve. I do not understand why it has to be 45 days to get out,” Jacobs says. “I can understand somebody wanting to say ‘Well, cut the program off.’ But isn’t there a reasonable exit strategy that allows people to recoup their money or is it just an on-off switch?”
Jacobs doesn’t know yet whether he’ll be suing the state. “I’ve passed over everything to my attorney,” Jacobs says. “He’s told me to seek advice from a bankruptcy attorney, too.” There are presently more than six-thousand TouchPlay machines in nearly three-thousand locations.