Task force head sees lottey TouchPlay access as big issue

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The director of a special task force looking at the spread of the Iowa Lottery's TouchPlay video machines said Friday that his biggest worry in the debate is access to the machines.

Michael Mahaffey, a Montezuma lawyer, said what troubles him most is young people having access to the machines.

Critics say the machines, in thousands of grocery and convenience stores across the state, are indistinguishable from slot machines. Proponents say they bring in revenue for the businesses where they are located.

Most of the machines are located in cordoned-off areas of stores where sales clerks have trouble monitoring them, Mahaffey said.

One suggestion being considered is installing a card reader where a drivers license would be swiped before playing the games. That could be used to keep young people from playing, and gambling addicts who have self-imposed bans from casinos.

Gov. Tom Vilsack named the task force to look at the TouchPlay issue after the state's casino industry, which is worried about the potential competition, raised concerns about the spread of the machines across Iowa.

Vilsack asked the task force to make a recommendation on March 9.

Wayne Davies told the panel on Friday that he is a gambling addict. He said he avoids casinos, but with TouchPlay scattered across the state, it's difficult to avoid the machines.

"It's a terrible, terrible feeling in my heart that many people are going to get caught up in this," he said.

Tom Coates, director of Consumer Credit Counseling, in Des Moines, described the TouchPlay machines as "the crack cocaine of gambling because of the speed of play."

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