TouchPlay Time Over?

Iowa House committee approves ban; Senate mulling same

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Businesses including convenience stores would have to remove the Iowa Lottery's controversial TouchPlay machines from their premises under a proposal approved by an Iowa House committee yesterday, reported the Des Moines Register.

My constituents have overwhelming said get these things out of here', said State Representative Sandy Greiner (R). They really resent taking their children into a grocery store or convenience store and having these machines all over.

But Rep. Wes Whitead (D) said the machines should [image-nocss] stay in place. A lot of small businesses around Iowa need help, he said. We're sending a message out there that we don't care about them.

The House State Government Committee approved the ban on a 20 to 1 vote, said the report, with Whitead being the lone opposing vote.

The bill will serve as the starting point for debate in the House over the future of the lottery devices, which resemble slot machines and have been installed at many Iowa businesses.

This is obviously the rock-[bottom] starting place, said State Government Committee Chairman Jeff Elgin (R). Everything is negotiated until the governor signs it.

A subcommittee Monday supported an amendment to House Study Bill 610 that gives retailers 30 days to take the machines out of their stores once the legislation is enacted, the report said. The bill is similar to Senate legislation being pushed by opponents of the machines.

House members said they wanted more information from the TouchPlay industry about the finances of the 5,600 machines already in 2,800 businesses across the state, such as taverns and c-stores.

Rep. Brian Quirk (D) said the legislation puts the onus on the groups involved in the TouchPlay project to answer questions that lawmakers have been asking, such as what the contractual obligations involving the TouchPlay machines and businesses are. These are the same kinds of questions that we've been asking over and over again, but we haven't been able to get answers, he said. A lot of people are dragging their feet.

A Senate committee isconsidering a similar bill this week. A task force named by Governor Tom Vilsack will issue its recommendations next week.