Our Opinion: Facing the consequences

Monday, July 17, 2006

A deadline for paying the Iowa Lottery for revenue received from the now outlawed Touch Play machines was reached on Monday with 14 gaming machine businesses still owing the state more than $2.4 million from revenues.

Some of these businesses and others that have already paid debts to the state have lawsuits pending claiming that they have lost millions by investing in the Touch Play machines at the encouragement of the state only to have that investment destroyed by the state legislature's decision to outlaw the gambling machines that resemble slot machines.

The clarification that these aren't actually slot machines and only resemble slot machines (based on the payout being with a paper receipt rather than cash) was something that the state was rather picky about when it was promoting the use of the machines.

The distinction has never been more than one of petty semantics. They are gambling machines. Most Iowans could tolerate when they were primarily restricted to bars but their presence became offensive as they started to become commonplace in such places as supermarkets and convenience stores.

Whether or not gambling machine distribution companies have the legal right to recover losses, the state was morally in the wrong to encourage an investment in gambling and then, in a fit of righteous indignation by legislators, deny the businesses the ability to recover the cost of those investments.

The Touch Play should have been phased out over at least five years. It is too late for that now. The matter will have to be decided by the courts.

We can only hope that in the future, legislators think about the long-term effects of whatever the state allows or doesn't allow in the area of gambling or anything else, and is prepared to accept the consequences.