Gambling debate looms as legislators go back to work

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

This year's Legislature faces a full-blown gambling debate because of a dispute over pull-tab video lottery machines, House Speaker Chris Rants said Friday. "It's unavoidable."

At the same time, a legislative oversight committee was grilling Lottery Commissioner Ed Stanek on the issue, with Stanek arguing that he's simply following a law approved by the Legislature allowing the machines.

"The legislation passed both houses."

Rants said lawmakers had no idea what state lottery officials had in mind when they gave that approval. The actual machines look identical to slot machines which are only allowed in casinos, he said.

"At no time did any lottery official show up in my office, show us a picture of a machine made by Bali and say this is what we want to put in every bar, tavern, grocery store and convenience store," Rants said.

There are roughly 4,600 of the machines, which netted about $55 million for the state, Stanek said.

Gov. Vilsack has mentioned the possibility of a moratorium on the machines.

Rants said lawmakers are angry with Stanek. "Legislators are hearing from their constituents saying 'When did we authorize a casino in every community in the state?'" Rants said. "To be honest, a lot of legislators think Ed Stanek has pulled a fast one on us."

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