Iowa Lottery President Edward Stanek, responding to a controversy over an expansion of the state's gambling industry, today ordered a limited moratorium on the installation of TouchPlay lottery machines, which closely resemble slot machines.
About 4,600 TouchPlay machines have been already installed at 2,500 locations in Iowa taverns, covenience and other retail sites.
Stanek's order permits additional machines — perhaps totaling in the thousands — that have already been ordered by businesses to be delivered and begin operating while the moratorium is in place.
Stanek acted after Gov. Tom Vilsack, citing "recent concerns expressed about the proliferation of gambling," asked him in a letter to exercise his authority to impose the moratorium.
The moratorium, which is retroactive to Friday, will remain in place for 60 days while a task force appointed by the governor examines issues that have surfaced regarding the the lottery machines.
These issues include whether the lottery machines are slot machines, which by law are only permitted in casinos, and if there are adequate safeguards to prevent minors, gambling addicts and intoxicated persons from playing the TouchPlay machines, Vilsack said.
The task force will include Stanek; Jane Bell of Ameristar Casino in Council Bluffs; Mary Ellen Chamberlin of the non-profit partner of the Davenport's Rythym City Casino; Craig Cahoon of Moss Distributing; Poweshiek County Attorney Michael Mahaffey; and Iowa Public Safety Commissioner Kevin Techau.
The TouchPlay machines were initially developed for taverns and fraternal lodges, but Iowa Lottery has since permitted them at many other retail locations, including grocery stores, convenience stores and gas stations.
About 4,000 machines have been installed since April, prompting complaints they are causing problems for gambling addicts and are a potential lure to people under 21 who are not permitted by law to gamble.