A new law will crack down on illegal cash payouts that some convenience store owners give to winners of video lottery machine games.
The measure will allow Georgia for the first time to regulate and track the machines and the awards. It will also allow the state to ensure that all of the machines’ operators are paying taxes on the terminals.
Gov. Nathan Deal signed the bill into law this week. He and other conservatives backed the measure because it will reduce the illegal cash awards.
The Lottery Corp. will take over regulation of the machines. And Deal’s spokesman, Brian Robinson, says the key is the centralized database the lottery will maintain.
“There’s been no centralized system that allows us to keep track of what’s out there," he said. "The GBI has done guestimates on how many machines are out there and what they’re doing. But we haven’t had hard data and we haven’t had a means of collecting hard data, and now we will.”
State Sen. Butch Miller, a Gainesville Republican, sponsored the bill.
"The bill will serve to clean up an industry that's gone a little on the wild side in the past few years," he said by phone.
A portion of the machines’ proceeds will go to the Lottery Corp. for HOPE, the state’s college scholarship.
Jonathan Stroble is a spokesman for the Student Finance Commission, which administers the HOPE scholarship. He says since demand for the program is up, the new money is welcome.
“More and more students are HOPE-eligible – staying in-state and going to in-state institutions, maintaining their eligibility while at that post-secondary institution," he said. "So more and more Georgians are benefiting from the program.”
Opponents say the law benefits the gaming industry, and open the door to other types of gambling. They also say the bill will expand state government through another commission of unelected officials.