Editorial: No TouchPlay is positive step

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 12, 2006

We were glad when we heard the news that Iowa banned TouchPlay machines. TouchPlay machines are essentially computers that mimic slot machines and were placed in gas stations, convenience stores, grocery stores, newsstands and taverns across Iowa.

Gambling &045; or gaming as some call it &045; can supplement state government coffers and help relieve some burden on taxpayers. It also can spur economic development, as Worth County has seen at Exit 214 on Interstate 35. When done right, and allowed in the proper places, it is a positive aspect of a community, a county or a state. You can see many Albert Lea residents gainfully employed at Exit 214’s Diamond Jo Casino.

But gaming has to be done right or not at all. It was a mistake by the Iowa Lottery to introduce the machines. TouchPlay was initially intended in 2002 as a pull-tab delivery with lights and music but developed into a fast-action electronic slot machine. Iowans don’t oppose gambling but they sure voiced opposition to TouchPlay. And legislators responded accordingly, voting overwhelmingly to ban them.

To gamble at Exit 214, a person has to drive there and thus consciously make a firm decision to take part. It’s like if you really want to ride a wild rollercoaster, you make a conscious decision to enter an amusement park. To gamble at taverns, grocery stores or gas stations is a temptation that is too close to home, too close to the places everyone visits every week.

Imagine a 16-year-old kid behind a store counter who watches the kids in the candy aisle, minds the person lurking in the magazine aisle, sells smokes to a customer on the run and can’t find time to stock the cooler because the fellow at the TouchPlay machine has been there for three hours. Unlike a casino, it’s not a well-supervised environment.

A study by the Des Moines Register revealed the machines that generated the most revenue were the ones in low-income neighborhoods, particularly the east side of Des Moines.

Rep. Wayne Ford, a Democrat from Des Moines, said to the Register, &8220;What your records show me is that many Iowans Š&160;are banking on the American Dream by gambling.&8221;

All 6,400 TouchPlay machines statewide were silenced May 3. In fact, people who played the machines were glad to see them go. The Register wrote in its May 4 edition: &8220;In Iowa Falls, a few customers at Brewskys Tavern were disappointed, but others realized they were losing too much money on TouchPlay, said owner Jerry Pearce. &8216;I am not missing the machines a bit,’ he said.

&8220;In Ottumwa, the East End Tavern will remain open, but the business will miss the $200 or more per week in extra income generated from TouchPlay, said Rhonda Houk, whose family has owned the tavern for about 50 years. &8216;It will be a pretty good loss,’ she said.&8221;

Need we say more? Iowans agree. Banning them is a good law.