PGRI Comment: This is an important step towards redirecting the income generated by illegal video-poker operators over to the deserving beneficiaries. Clarifying the beneficiaries of government-gaming should mobilize Lottery’s stakeholders to defend their interests against illegal, untaxed, and unregulated operators which are taking profits away from Good Causes like HOPE Scholarship funding.

More money could flow to the HOPE scholarship program under legislation given key committee approval Thursday.

House Bill 478, sponsored by Rep. Matt Ramsey, R-Peachtree City, would give control and enforcement of legal video poker machines to the Georgia Lottery Corp. and direct that a share of the profits go to the lottery-funded HOPE program.

It’s not yet known how much money the change could bring to HOPE.

The proposal has the blessing of the Department of Revenue, which currently enforces the video poker program, the lottery and law enforcement.

It also pleases convenience store operators, who compete against stores that operate illegal machines.

Video poker machines are legal, if they are registered and taxed. Stores are only allowed to award vouchers for merchandise in the store, not cash or tobacco or alcohol.

Jim Tudor, president of the Georgia Association of Convenience Stores, said “it’s about time.”

“This is a great, great step,” Tudor said. “These are long overdue reforms.”

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