Tuesday, Jun 28, 2016
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Lottery gets OK to buy 1,200 gambling devices

COLUMBUS — The Ohio Lottery Commission won approval Monday from a legislative budgetary panel to buy up to 1,200 units of a video version of its lottery games to provide a legal alternative to electronic raffle machines at veteran and fraternal organizations.

About 20 representatives of veterans groups in the state protested that they don’t need the lottery’s help.

The Ohio Controlling Board voted unanimously to approve a $22 million, two-year expansion of a contract with Intralot Inc., a Greek firm, to buy the machines to replace raffle machines Attorney General Mike DeWine says are illegal.

The new machines, connected with the lottery, would provide a video version of the paper ticket games. If a game turns up a winner, it would print out a voucher that would be redeemed for payout.

Some lawmakers questioned why an expansion of gambling options went to the quasi-legislative budgetary panel rather than to the General Assembly.

“Why not a similar approach to the Internet cafes several months ago?” asked Rep. Chris Redfern (D., Catawba Island), a board member and chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party.

A law passed last year put those cafes out of business because they were using devices the state called illegal slot machines.

Connie Miller, director of operations for the Ohio Lottery Commission, said the commission bought the lottery machines exclusively for veterans groups and fraternal organizations to fill a charitable gaming void created by the loss of their raffle machines.

A court restraining order prevents the permanent unplugging of the raffle machines.

“Ultimately, the legislature or the judiciary may certainly come up with a different decision than this,” Ms. Miller said. “What we’re proposing is to offer an option that uses the traditional lottery model and would provide a legally and accountable solution for these venues.”

But many Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion posts said they would rather the lottery commission not meddle in their affairs and allow them to keep the raffle machines they say are more attractive than the lottery’s alternative.

“They’re strong-arming and forcing us to accept what they’re offering,” said Suzette Price, director of services for the American Legion in Ohio. “This is not the offer that we want. … The controlling board made a very good point in noting that the machines we currently have are not shut down within the veterans’ service organizations because they cannot prove that they’re unconstitutional.”

The lottery commission said it has orders for roughly 600 of the 1,200 machines it hopes to buy through Intralot.

The machines would be manufactured in Mason near Cincinnati, and the company would get 1.83 percent of the wagering as its fee for operating them.

Of the net proceeds, the lottery commission would keep 60 percent and the lodges, posts, and clubs would keep 40 percent for their charities and operations.

Of the 60 cents of each dollar the lottery would keep 58 cents that would go toward the lottery’s constitutional duty of using lottery proceeds to fund education.

The commission said the 1,200 machines would generate about $10 million a year for education and $7 million for the clubs.

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.

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