Video gambling picking up?

Moderated by Tom Sabulis

The passage of House Bill 487 moves the regulation of coin-operated gaming machines from the Department of Revenue to the Georgia Lottery, with revenue going to help fund the HOPE scholarship. The legislation will eliminate illegal, untaxed underground machines at convenience stores, writes the chief of a statewide trade group. But putting an official imprimatur on gambling of any sort places the state on a slippery slope, says a Christian group that cites the lottery’s expanding array of games and their impression on children.

Commenting is open.

Video poker bill will help enforce the law

By Jim Tudor

“Convenience-store casino” was a catchy phrase coined by the media, usually in the context of a story regarding the seizure of coin-operated machines that were being used illegally.

There are more than 6,500 convenience stores in Georgia that provide employment for more than 70,000 of our citizens. The vast majority are operated lawfully. Convenience stores are an integral part of the communities they serve and are the primary source of sales made to support the Georgia Lottery and its HOPE scholarships.

Yet for all the good we seek to accomplish, the “casino” stereotype has been blight on our image as an industry.

For that reason alone, the passage of House Bill 487, which regulates video poker games and provides additional revenue to the lottery, was long overdue.

For years, members of the Georgia Association of Convenience Stores have been asking for relief from the state to curb illegal activities — the paying of cash — associated with video games found in certain stores. Retailers who “played by the rules” found themselves having to compete with rogue operators who were pocketing unreported, and untaxed, income from such activities. Prices on items on which we do compete — fuel, tobacco, etc. — were often artificially influenced by these under-the-counter profits.

For those who claim passage of HB 487 will increase gambling in Georgia, I have a counter argument: I believe the number of machines will actually decrease.

As someone who has been involved in convenience-store retailing for more than 37 years, I can attest that the passage of HB 487 will reduce profits for many retailers who have operated such machines illegally.

The legislation will provide law enforcement with something that they have always lacked – machine activity data – that will help them better utilize their resources to zoom in on suspects. Let’s face it: If four machines in a town are averaging a couple hundred dollars a week in activity, and another is averaging a couple thousand, where would you concentrate your attention? That has been a major enforcement challenge to date: knowing where to look.

HB 487 provides real data, as the machines must be connected to a modem that will transmit activity data to the Georgia Lottery Corp. and, as necessary, to law enforcement. Retailers whose livelihood is undergirded by illegal activity may also be reduced along with the machines involved.

We applaud Gov. Nathan Deal for taking the lead in promoting this overdue action to rein in activities associated with the illegal operation of video game machines. The machines that remain will be monitored and, for the first time, provide a source of income for the lottery.

Simply stated, with the passage of HB 487 and the targeted support of law enforcement, we can hopefully remove “convenience-store casino” from the public vernacular.

Jim Tudor is president of the Georgia Association of Convenience Stores.

And so it goes; Gov. Deal flips on gambling

By Jerry Luquire

The popular network news broadcaster Linda Ellerbee signs off her newscasts with four words that can insult, enlighten, bring a laugh or infuriate. Her closing, “And so it goes…” came to mind when I learned that gambling had again won the hearts, votes and money of too many Georgians — including Gov. Nathan Deal, who had run on a campaign saying he did not support expanding gambling.

Amazing the changes 1,000 days can bring.

In House Bill 487, which gives a green light to video gambling on a statewide database, Gov. Deal discovers a gambling measure he does favor and will sign. He explains his flip-flop with the expected defense: Too much bad information was put out about that bill.

Governor, the Georgia Christian Coalition just told the truth; falsehoods were not needed to oppose this bill.

The primary gift to gamblers in the new video gambling bill is that it makes slot machine-appearing games legal. They can pay off in prizes from the store or lottery tickets — but no cash. To make certain this provision for cashless gambling is strictly observed, the Georgia Lottery Commission has been given responsibility for enforcement, which means its army of law folk must arrest lawbreakers who are doing their best to make more revenue for the commission. Fox, meet hen house?

Remember a few years ago when Georgians first said yes to a simple lottery ticket sale? Just a roll of tickets, one dollar each. Not even sales tax could be charged. Now, entire sections of the stores have been given over to lottery offerings. “Scratch off” has been added to our lexicon.

So what is really wrong with more gambling? No discussion is needed about the moral issue or wasted lives excessive gambling creates. What’s wrong with neighborhood gamblers sitting on six stools in your local store sending their money to Atlanta where one day maybe a dime of each dollar goes to education?

Not one cent of that dollar is spent as tax or local purchase. It takes sales tax from 20 people to replace every dollar those cash-devouring machines grab from your local economy. Those millions of dollars to the lottery are from someone’s local pocket and unpaid tax.

However, not all is gloom. Those in the business of gambling have decided to not bet on horse or dog racing coming to Georgia. The space will be more profitable for “Family Fun Centers” featuring kiddie fun near video poker and other games of first skill, then chance.

Gamblers are the most optimistic people. They must be, knowing the odds are against them in any gambling venture. So they prepare for tomorrow’s customers by making sure young folks feel at home around gambling, and seeing Mom and Dad dropping money in machines. Much more visual than purchasing pieces of cardboard.

At least in casinos, those under 18 are not admitted. Not so at your local gambling store. The future is watching. The machines are flashing.

Jerry Luquire is president of the Georgia Christian Coalition.

10 comments Add your comment

Bernie

April 6th, 2013
1:03 am

Rick @ 4:37 pm – You are so right in your Observation. When Judgement arrives. There will be several questions of our Leaders. What did you do for the Least among you? One of our Leaders suggested we cut the pay to the Physicians who treat Poor to save money. We took a Vote and that is what we all agreed to do. We gave the GREEN LIGHT for a (1) Billion Dollar Football Stadium for one of the Richest Men in town, so that we can cheer on our favorite Team. We did provide the poor with Video Gambling just so they may have a chance at making it. We also told them it was OK for them to take their GUNS to church and to school if they wanted to.

What about gifts for yourselves? Well, we thought we deserved a little something extra. So we just reduced the amount of our BRIBERS could give US at one time. Being in charge has its advantages.

A voice in the wilderness will say. “I sent you a Leader to provide the Poor with Healthcare, what happened?”

Oh No! We could not possibly. Do that! You know politics and all. We had to show him what a failure he was. So we All got together and said NO!
We denied THE POOR health care and said it was too expensive. The voice will respond, “Did you do anything to HELP Them?”
Well, Let me think about that and I’ll get back to you!

The voice final response will say. Did I Not give to you The Greatest Nation On Earth? Did I not Bless you with Wealth, like No other Nation known to Man? Did I not provide you with the security and comfort like No other Nation known to YOU? What other Nation have you known in modern times and with such an abundant amount of Blessings?

With All of these Blessings bestowed upon you and this is what You Do for the LEAST among you? You told them NO!…. it was too expensive, I see.

Tell me again Your name….. AMERICA!

I Will Remember YOU!

Rick

April 5th, 2013
4:37 pm

It is great to have this opportunity to see where Governor Deal’s real priorities are. Provide the poor a new type of false “hope”, while making sure Georgians are denied access to the new expanded Medicaid program being implemented in nearly all the other states that really care about their residents.

When I moved here, decades ago, Georgians loved and cared for each other. It’s dog eat dog, with the latest governors. Sad.

Shamehia

April 5th, 2013
3:27 pm

The times they be a changin. If the Christian community feels threatened by video gambling they’d best brace themselves because like it or not we’re catching up with the rest of 21st century America.

Article in this morning’s paper reports that over half of Americans now favor marijuana legalization. Just wait till THAT one shows up on Georgia’s doorstep…it’s coming.

speak the truth

April 5th, 2013
10:50 am

Dave, I too found Mr. Luquire’s statement offensive. You summed up well my feelings. It’s interesting that the press goes to this guy for quotes of the religous perspective as the organization Christian Coalition went dormant several years ago replaced by other organizations. Basically, Mr. Luquire has retained control of the organization’s name and the members are he and his shadow. Like many other Georgians, I as a lifelong Christian find it offensive for a person like Mr. Luquire to represent that he speaks for me.

While I am suspect of the viability of this latest move to regulate amusement machines (these are not gambling machines), I will acknowledge that there is opportunity for abuse. That doesn’t mean that they need to be outlawed to protect the citizens of Georgia. They need to be operated in a controlled manner so that they don’t become lawless mini-casinos.

I wonder whether Mr. Luquire has ever set foot into a casino. If he did, he would see many perhaps very similar to himself – those that are Christians out for an evening of fun. Not “boozing it up” or engaging in various forms of sin.

Mr. Luquire – practice the tolerance that your faith demands!

speak the truth

April 5th, 2013
10:35 am

Enter your comments here

k

April 5th, 2013
8:37 am

Georgia should get all the way in, not just getting its feet wet with video poker in stores. A state like Georgia with a rich history of making the most of what it has to work with like #1 a transportation hub
#2 Cotton Exchange and of course, slave trading. It all adds up to very fertile ground for casinos and river boat gambling. An incredible future awaits.
It is exciting, thinking about the wealth that would be generated and the the overflowing budget surpluses for state and local government.
Ofcourse, a deep water harbor at Savannah would be a grand plus and complement casino gambling very well with Carnival cruise lines coming right up to the heartland.

Bernie

April 5th, 2013
8:12 am

Any one with Half a Brain knew that this was a process that was ultimately going to happen.

South Georgia Retiree

April 5th, 2013
7:47 am

If we truly believe we need more money for pre-k and college scholarships, gambling is, and always has been, the wrong way to go. We need a general tax and not gambling revenues to support these important programs. Politicians brag about investing in Georgia but fail to put enough general revenue in these two important investments and thus miss a way to guarantee a better way of life for all of us. Leaders under the dome are distracted by their addiction to power and spend tax money to keep their power, not to make a better education system.

SAWB

April 4th, 2013
6:19 pm

Any logical person realizes that gambling is a foolish endeavor and will lead to an overall loss for participants. However, if they wish to reduce my financial burned by funding the education of my family that is fine with me. It is sort of ironic that a casual observation of participants in local stores does seem to indicate that either they or their children have not nor ever will attend college.

Dave

April 4th, 2013
6:17 pm

” No discussion is needed about the moral issue….”

Does that mean that Mr. Luquire’s view on the issue is a given? Or mine? I can guarantee you that our views differ on morality. Why do I think that he thinks my views aren’t worthy of consideration.