Proposal for Touch-Screen Lottery Machines in Iowa Evokes Bad Memories of ‘TouchPlay’ Controversy

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The MagicianThey say that time heals all things, but in the case of the “TouchPlay” controversy in Iowa, it may be a few more years before the state is healed of the wounds left by lottery technology.

According to the Des Moines Register, the Iowa Lottery is attempting to follow in the footsteps of other states by offering touch-screen self-service kiosks, in which residents can conveniently purchase scratch tickets and pull-tabs.

The only thing standing in their way is a nine-year-old ban on “monitor vending machines” imposed by the Iowa Legislature after a statewide furor broke out over the introduction of TouchPlay machines in stores, restaurants, and taverns.

TouchPlay machines were casino-style lottery games that resembled slot machines. Iowans were upset with the brashness of the machines, citing the inability to walk into any type of establishment without the machines staring them in the face, waiting to take their money.

Over 40% of American families already spend more than they earn, and Iowans felt as if the state was betraying them by making gambling so enticing and accessible.

The Iowa Legislature banned the TouchPlay devices in 2006, in addition to all other lottery-based vending machines. Mary Neubauer, Vice President of the Iowa Lottery, thinks that times have changed enough for the state to reconsider their decade-old ruling.

“The TouchPlay definition is frozen in a moment of time — but technology is not,” Neubauer said.

She added that the Iowa Lottery is aware of the TouchPlay controversy and is not proposing to change the ban, but to tweak it to the point where “self-service lottery kiosks” are legal.

Overzealous advertising and accessibility has been proven to be a quick path to self-destruction for a number of different gambling entities, and the newest trend in wagering is no exception to the rule.

According to the Wall Street Journal, daily fantasy sports are quickly becoming the most popular form of legal gambling in the U.S. However, some feel as if the industry is shooting itself in the foot with constant advertising that consumers feel they cannot escape.

Kate Sirkin, global director of audience and measurement solutions at Starcom Mediavest Group, said that it is best to limit a brand to two or three advertisements in a single broadcast.

“You’re irritating people and you’re wasting money,” Sirkin said of the companies that inundate viewers with endless ads.

In the case of Iowa, the backlash of the TouchPlay controversy is still being felt, and State Senator Jeff Danielson recalls the debate sweeping the Legislature “like a prairie fire.”

“We will look at what the machine does. If it is a single point of purchase for a single lottery ticket as a transaction, then I think it will be successful. If it functions like a slot machine, then they will not be successful,” Danielson said.

There is no timetable for a decision on the new self-service lottery kiosks, but state lawmakers said Thursday that they will be open-minded about the Iowa Lottery’s request.

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