Sunday, March 19, 2006

TouchPlay Redux

The TouchPlay debate has moved past round one in the politics of creative destruction. It’s not over, and I am not talking about the lawsuits.

We still have the September 1st bill that the House passed on Tuesday to be discussed in the Senate this coming week, and there’s growing support to roll back the lottery’s charter agency status. Just a thought: it’s never a good idea to give wide latitude to government agencies charged with producing revenue. What’s their incentive: make money with whatever works or cut waste to improve efficiency? However, it is clever of Vilsack to use a creative policy tool sold on the concept of “less red tape” to move a major producer of revenue out from under serious bipartisan political oversight.

Outside of the continuing battle of the bills, the c-stores are threatening to halt other business arrangements with the Iowa Lottery. While the TouchPlay coalition is soft selling the “it’s not fair” talk (Time Out: since when has the world been fair?) and offering up a two year schedule for the removal of TouchPlay machines that, of course, is “fair” to their clients.

The one issue that is down played in the debate is the revenue question. How are we going to replace the 40+ million in TouchPlay money? This is particularly true in an environment where very few people are able to spit out a “no, that’s not a wise choice” when it comes to spending…or much of anything else. Every budget plan floating around the Statehouse increases spending, and political types around the Statehouse are looking for an REC report that’ll save their budget behinds.

This is a long way of saying: it’s about the money. Okay, we have a bipartisan bill to rip ‘em out on Vilsack’s desk, and a budget that doesn’t really balance, and a governor who isn’t going to ratchet back spending, and a GOP that will not cave to a tax increase. Messy.

The TouchPlay people are aware of these facts, and they’ll work it with their “the world isn’t fair” pabulum while coaxing a keep it all under the dome & revenue friendly compromise that might be attached to a holiday bill. Although it’s not perfect, this type of solution provides everything any politician might need: an anti-gambling roll call vote; reduced pressure to find new revenue sources through tax increases; the continued flow of political money; and, the ability to spend, spend, spend to keep the lobby & local voters happy, happy, happy.

I know, cynical, but the world does offer a reprieve every now and again -- I-Pod on the speakers singing the Who's Baba O'Riley with my boys.

"It's not fair"? Have any of these people looked at the odds on the slot machines they're defending?
I didn't say the "It's not fair" argument was legit, just that it's the one the TouchPlay coalition is putting out to the media. If you think about it, any business interest with ridiculous business practices -- house skewed slottos, car loans from well-dressed sharks, political consulting contracts -- will attempt to define their interests as some business version of a Beatrix Potter story.

Why not, attempt to get as far on the cute & fluffy scale as possible before the real world information comes back at you.
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