A panel of lawmakers says the Ohio Lottery can spend $22.5 million for machines to offer to veterans’ and fraternal groups, who have been using machines the Attorney General says are illegal. But as Statehouse correspondent Karen Kasler reports, there are mixed reports on the demand for those machines.
Veterans halls, fraternal lodges and other organizations groups have been using electronic gaming machines that Attorney General Mike DeWine ruled last year are illegal gambling devices. The vets’ groups went to court and got an order that allows them to still use the machines, which raise money for local charities. In an attempt to resolve the dispute, the Ohio Lottery offered to buy new electronic raffle machines for the groups, an idea that at first was rejected. But hundreds of groups are on board now. Connie Miller with the Ohio Lottery brought to the state Controlling Board a request for $22.5 million dollars for buy up to 1,200 new electronic raffle machines.
“We currently have requests for slightly more than 600 machines, though we’re still evaluating the sites where they would go. So we would place an initial incremental order.”
The turnaround apparently comes after the Lottery offered a new deal to the groups – giving them more money for their local charities than a previous deal did. This new plan gives the machines’ manufacturer Intralot a little less than 2 percent of gross monthly sales, with 40 percent of the rest going to the groups and 60 percent back to the state for schools. But that’s less money for local charities than the groups keep now with their current machines. And just before the Controlling Board approved the Lottery’s request, Democratic Rep. Chris Redfern of Port Clinton noted in a question to Miller that acceptance of those state-provided machines is totally voluntary.
Redfern: “And in lieu of an appellate decision, the machines that are currently in place at the lodges and halls because of the restraining order can remain in place?”
Miller: “Mr. President, Rep. Redfern, yes. Until the court acts further, those machines can remain in place.”
And in many cases, that’s what’s going to happen, says Bill Seagraves, the executive director of the Ohio Veterans and Fraternal Charitable Coalition.
“We’re not going to take the machines. Our posts will not take those machines. They’ll rebel against taking those machines.”
Suzette Price is with the American Legion, among the 20 groups that protested the deal.
Price: “We’re not encouraging the acceptance of these machines. Absolutely not.”
Kasler: “And you’re just going to keep operating the machines you have right now because you have court order that says you can.”
Price: “Yes, absolutely. Until they’re proven constitutionally illegal, then we’ve been given the authority by the state to continue operating those machines, yes.”
A spokesperson for the Ohio Lottery says more than 200 veterans’ and fraternal group buildings have requested at least one of the new machines, and 200 additional halls and lodges have requested more information about them. The machines will be manufactured in Intralot’s facility in Mason near Cincinnati based on demand – and if the current machines are upheld in court, Miller says the new ones could be deployed to bars and other places where the Lottery operates its Keno machines.