AG's countersuit to state lottery class action needs 900 more

Legal News Line May 17, 2007, 10:00am

Tom Miller

The controversial collapse a year ago of a contentious arrangement between private operators and the Iowa Lottery is still keeping Hawkeye State attorneys busy. Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller on Wednesday countersued a group of businesses he claimed owes the state $1.1 million following the TouchPlay gaming-machine collapse last year. But his back-atcha suit is penny slots compared to a high-rolling $900 million class-action lawsuit businesses have launched against the state over the disputed end to a vaunted public-private venture. Miller filed his countersuit in Polk County District Court against 11 government-contracted private operators of TouchPlay slot machines for money owed the state. One business alone - Hawkeye Amusements of Iowa City - owes $284,794, Miller alleges. His office claims the businesses hung onto cash they should have turned over. "When the end was near, they didn't make the payments they had agreed to," Miller spokesman Robert Brammer told the Des Moines Register. The countersuit was in response to a suit brought by 73 TouchPlay-contracted businesses that was granted for trial in March. They sued the State of Iowa and Attorney General Miller after the Iowa legislature pulled the plug on TouchPlay in May 2006. The Iowa lottery had contracted with businesses to install 6,700 TouchPlay machines at 3,200 retail locations across the state prior to the collapse. The plaintiffs claim the state government broke agreements with them over the machines. The suit attempts to "hold the state to the promises it made to the TouchPlay businesses so they can recoup the losses they incurred," Des Moines attorney George LaMarca, representing some TouchPlay businesses, told the Register March 30. The venture's collapse recently gained additional notoriety as a how-not-to-do-it case study in the academic journal Gaming Law Review. The Iowa Lottery's TouchPlay Debacle was authored by Drake University Law Profesor Keith C. Miller. Judge Glen Pille ruled six weeks ago that the TouchPlay operators' lawsuit, the largest of four currently before state courts, can go to trial April 21 next year.

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