The Legislature — Gaming bill fixes problems, helps HOPE
March 29, 2013 12:00 AM | 1305 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Georgia lawmakers should be applauded for doing something positive about a shady activity that is all too easily overlooked — video gaming machines in the back corners of some convenience stores that illegally pay off in dollars.

Even better, they want to put these devices to good use to help fund the HOPE scholarship program.

The Georgia Senate voted 35-16 to approve a measure that puts most coin-operated amusement machines in the state under the jurisdiction of the Georgia Lottery Corp.

That’s a big switch.

Currently, these devices are regulated by the state Department of Revenue. The problem, however, is that state revenue agents are overburdened. They don’t have the manpower to make sure that every licensed gaming machine pays off in credits or prizes, as opposed to cash, which is illegal in Georgia.

That means enforcement typically falls to local law enforcement officials, which is spotty to nonexistent.

But here’s where the state is getting smart. Most convenience stores sell lottery tickets. It’s easy money for owners for not a lot of extra work (convenience stores netted almost $231 million for handling ticket sales in 2011).

So by putting gaming devices under the Georgia Lottery’s jurisdiction, those stores that sell tickets but also illegally make money on the side through gambling are likely to clean up their acts. They’re not going to jeopardize their lucrative relationship with the state lottery to make a few extra bucks on gaming machines. ...

Some senators who voted against the measure fear that it will legitimize gambling. But that doesn’t appear to be the case. What will be interesting to see, however, is how much revenue it would generate for HOPE. That’s because 5 to 10 percent of the take would go to the lottery corporation, which also would get the licensing and permitting fees.

And it’s not just machines typically found in casinos.

The measure lets the lottery commission regulate “bona fide coin operated amusement machine business.” This means machines that accept coins or bills, provide no product, and award credits as prizes — not necessarily what most Georgians consider gambling. ...

... Any bill that fixes a problem and helps HOPE scholarships at the same time is a bill that hits the jackpot.

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