ATLANTA -- The Georgia Senate passed a bill Thursday that would regulate video gambling machines and make more money flow into the state's HOPE scholarship program.
Under House Bill 487 any merchant who wants to give customers access to video gambling machines must have a license and every machine will have to be connected to a central communications network for monitoring by the Georgia Lottery.
The bill has the support of Governor Deal and the GBI which has been cracking down on illegal video gambling machines for years. "These machines aren't paying taxes, they are handing out prizes that they probably shouldn't be handing out under Georgia state law," said Brian Robinson, the Governor's Press Secretary. "We have no idea how much money is going into these machines.
The bill goes back to the House, which passed it earlier, but the Senate made some changes to the bill. If the House passes it, it will go to the Governor for his signature.
The GBI estimates that some illegal gambling machines take in as much as $250,000 a year. Under the bill winnings would be distributed in the form of "free plays, merchandise, points, tokens, vouchers, lottery tickets, and cards," to be redeemed at the location of play.
Up to ten percent of the net profits from the machines will go to the HOPE scholarship program. "What this does is it takes what is already happening in Georgia and brings it into a system where we can tax it and use some of the revenue for HOPE and Pre-K," Robinson said.
The state estimates there are over 10,000 illegal video gambling machines throughout the state.