The lawsuit against the state over the shut down of the TouchPlay machines was amended today (Monday) in Polk County District Court to add 25 owners — bringing the total to 30.
Joleen Hedley of Dubuque is one of the owners added on. Hedley says she’s suing on behalf of her family and her business. Hedley owns “Rich and Junnie’s Coin” in Dubuque. Hedley says, “This lawsuit is about a promise broken. Our goal, my goal, is to hold the State of Iowa accountable for their decisions. As a mother and a business owner, when I give my word, or make and agreement, I believe that we have a responsibility to one another.”
Hedley says the suit is not about whether you favor the lottery or casino gambling — it’s about “Iowa values.” Hedley says it’s about how Iowa leaders “betrayed our trust and in the end dismissed us with a total lack of respect. Hedley says they’re seeking compensation for “a contract that was breached and a contract that was broken.” She says the compensation would help their business, but the lawsuit should also be a wakeup call that in Iowa it is unacceptable to treat business owners or others “with such total disregard.”
Jeff Siggins owns J&B Amusement in Atlantic, and also talked about a breach of trust. Siggins says, “My family and I trusted the Iowa Lottery, the state legislature, and yet we stand here today with a promise broken and a contract breached. We have spent a lifetime building a business only to see the future of that business placed in jeopardy.”
Siggins says the TouchPlay owners didn’t jump right into purchasing the machines, and did so only after getting assurances from the state. Siggins says “all of us took great pains to look at the Iowa Lottery’s five-year business plan.” He says “our partner changed its mind and left us in the cold. It’s not only unethical, it’s against the law.”
Mark Jacobs of Ankeny also owns TouchPlay machines. He says the specific damage figure for the lawsuit has not been determined and they expect it to be determined in the pre-trial hearings. Jacobs says the testimony of Iowa Lottery Director Ed Stanek in an earlier lawsuit estimated the damages to the machine owners at over 900-million dollars. Machine owners lost another lawsuit seeking to stop the shut down of the machines.
Jacobs believes they have a case to win damages in this suit. Jacobs says the judge earlier ruled that lawmakers were within their constitutional right to shut the machines down. But Jacobs says the judge in his ruling said the machines owners were “encourage and enticed to invest millions of dollars”, so Jacobs says this suit is about the “broken promise” not about whether the Legislature had the right to shut the machines down.
Craig Cahoon, vice president of Moss Distributing of Des Moines, says they believe they have a solid contract that was broken. Cahoon says they have a five-year agreement that was spelled out by the Iowa Lottery, and he says the testimony of Stanek other lottery officials shows that they used that agreement to go to banks to get money to invest in the machines.
Jacobs says he had 85 machines that cost eight thousand dollars each to buy. He says the machines ran only five months before the shut down, so he did not recover his investment. Hedley says her business invested one-point-five million dollars in 203 machines and they did not operate long enough to recover the family’s investment.
Governor Tom Vilsack, an attorney by trade, offered this brief response when questioned by reporters about the lawsuit. “You know, it is what it is. Certainly there’s nothing prohibiting or preventing the owners from taking that step,” Vilsack said. “It’ll be handled in due course. There’s not much to say about that.” According to Vilsack, legislators made it clear they weren’t interested in compensating businesses for TouchPlay losses.