Georgia already has made peace with funding our children’s education through legalized gambling.
So, the question isn’t whether we can live with the moral compromises that come with such a funding choice, but how far we want to push it.
And now, a coalition of former lottery officials and business interests wants to push it to video lottery gambling.
Are you on board?
Dave Garrett, an Atlanta real estate developer and coalition member who was the lottery first board chairman, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that video gambling revenue would make up for the $300 million shortfall for lottery-funded HOPE scholarships and pre-k. The HOPE 20/20 Coalition also includes Cadillac Jack, a Duluth-based video gambling machine company. Garrett said the coalition will expand to include other businesses and individuals interested in protecting lottery programs.
But, the coalition’s effort faces a number of difficulties: a lottery board that has seen similar proposals before and decided against moving forward; conservative Christian opposition; and a governor who opposes any expansion of gambling.
For Garrett, who says he has no personal financial interest in adopting a video lottery, the struggles of HOPE and pre-k show the need for action.
“I see this just as a natural maturation of this lottery,” said Garrett, who led the campaign to create a lottery to fund educational programs in the 1990s and served a second term on the lottery board under former Gov. Sonny Perdue. “It’s going to have to do some additional things in order to rebuild confidence in those programs, re-fund them and get the reserves back up and build a good platform for it to go forward.”
Deal doesn’t view video lottery gambling as a solution for a healthier HOPE and pre-k. “No such proposal has come to our office, but the governor has strongly opposed efforts to expand gambling in Georgia,” Brian Robinson, spokesman for Gov. Nathan Deal, said
But Garrett is concerned the cuts will continue if nothing changes. “What happens as the costs continue to go up and and [there are] more and more qualified 4-year-olds and qualified students for HOPE?” he said.
The coalition’s answer is video lottery terminals that supporters describe as the equivalent of an electronic scratch-off ticket. They are different from video poker machines, which are already illegal in Georgia.
“These aren’t revolutionary,” Garrett, whose father was a former CEO of Delta, said. “The basis of the VLT games are not fundamentally different. It’s all a mathematical algorithm. It’s all a function of chance.”
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog