Coming soon to a video poker machine near you: Lottery tickets as prizes.
The Georgia Lottery board set inaugural rules Thursday under its new power to regulate video poker and other coin-operated gambling machines across the state.
It may or may not be a popular move, as the state steps up efforts to strictly regulate the machines by forcing businesses to register them and prevent prohibited cash payouts.
The meeting was the board’s first since state lawmakers, with Gov. Nathan Deal’s approval, gave the lottery control and enforcement power in part to push more money toward Georgia’s strained pre-k and HOPE college scholarship programs.
Lottery president and CEO Debbie Dlugolenski Alford said she was working with the state Department of Revenue on a transition plan as the department cedes control of the machines.
Regulations about the machines are being updated, as lottery officials review data collection and reporting requirements. A “frequently asked questions” segment about the transition will soon be posted publicly on the galottery.com website. Alford expected no later than Monday to send a letter to business owners and operators of the machines to explain the process.
Additionally, the rules approved Thursday by the lottery board allowed the machines to award lottery tickets as winning prizes — although they prohibit any one under the age of 18 from playing, as is the case with the lottery in general.
Video poker machines are already legal in Georgia. Regulation, however, has been lax. Deal and lawmakers are hoping House Bill 487, which Deal signed into law last week, changes that.
It requires that the machines be registered and taxed by the lottery. Stores where they are played may only award lottery tickets and vouchers for merchandise in the store, not cash, tobacco or alcohol. The machines must also be plugged into a centralized monitoring system that would track how much money is being spent.
Violators could be fined up to $25,000 and receive up to five years in jail.
It is too soon to say exactly how much money will be raised through the new rules and enforcement, although officials expect to eventually funnel up to 10 percent of the profits toward the pre-k and HOPE programs.