In a 10-5 vote on Thursday, the Idaho House State Affairs Committee has reluctantly agreed to send a bill to the House floor that would outlaw electronic pull-tab machines in the state.
Stop Predatory Gambling, a Washington, DC- based anti-gaming group, successfully convinced lawmakers in Idaho that touchscreen gaming machines commonly known as “tap scratchers,” which can typically be found situated near the counters of local taverns, clear the way for gambling to spread throughout the state and threaten to ruin lives and families, according to The Spokesman-Review.
Jonathan Krutz, a Boise State professor who serves on the lobbying group’s board of directors, also argued that the pull-tab machines are similar to slot machines in that they allow rapid-fire betting. Krutz reportedly said, “The difference between paper pull-tabs and these touch tab machines is the difference between caffeine and cocaine.”
The characterization of the machines, which bring the state lottery $3 million in profit annually, was disputed by Idaho Lottery Director Jeff Anderson, who said that last year an average of $7.03 per hour in bets were collected by the pull-tab machines. The revenue from which, was allocated to public schools, Idaho’s permanent building fund, with the host businesses receiving $2 million in commissions, as reported by the news agency.
The lucrative machines, which were approved by the state legislature in 2011, can be found in 144 drinking establishments throughout the state. Similar in performance to slots, the electronic pull-tab machines are capable of playing some 1,200 bets per hour, but without all the bells and whistles, that’s where the similarities end.
The bill now moves, without a recommendation, to the full House for further consideration.
Meanwhile, the state could be gearing up for another battle over the possible legalization of instant historical horseracing wagering machines.