Our Opinion: All it takes is a nose

Monday, February 13, 2006

There's a phrase that is used at times: "the camel's nose is under the tent." While the exact origin of this phrase is unknown, here's the basic concept: a camel will stick his nose into your tent, and if you do nothing about it, he'll get his whole head in, then his neck, and, eventually the entire camel will be in your tent,destroying everything.

Once the camel's nose is in your tent, you more than likely will be in trouble. This phrase comes to mind when the controversy about the Iowa Lottery's TouchPlay machines is brought up.

The TouchPlay machines look and play a great deal like video lottery machines seen in casinos in Iowa. Currently, there are nearly 5,000 of the machines in use in more than 2,600 locations in Iowa, including bars, convenience stores and supermarkets. There are orders in place for an additional 5,000 machines, but Gov. Tom Vilsack has put a moratorium on expansion until a study of the impact of the machines can be completed.

It is estimated that the state will make $30 million this year and $45 million in 2007 in profits from the machines, which casino officials say look and play like slot machines.

A poll conducted by the Des Moines Register showed that Iowans are pretty evenly split on gambling, with 47 percent of adults responding that Iowa has about the right amount of gambling, 42 percent believe there are too many opportunities and 7 percent saying there are too few opportunities.

The TouchPlay debate has small town gas stations being able to compete with casinos, which doesn't endear them to the gaming industry. Now the battle is on -- will the state have the moral high ground to pull all the machines? Will they be able to live without the $45 million?

Will they be able to push the camel out of the tent, or should we all just get used to the smell?