The Ohio Lottery Commission will expand legal gambling in the state by placing hundreds of next-generation electronic machines in veterans posts and fraternal lodges. The expansion might not stop there.
The Ohio Lottery Commission will expand legal gambling in the state by placing hundreds of next-generation electronic machines in veterans posts and fraternal lodges.
The expansion might not stop there.
Connie Miller, the lottery’s deputy director for operations, said at the Controlling Board meeting yesterday that the agency might consider offering the machines to bars, restaurants, bowling alleys and other businesses.
“At this point, we’re expecting to move cautiously,” Miller said. “Not every game is a hit.”
She said it will be up to the lottery commission if and where it expands use of the new electronic games, which are patterned after slot machines.
The Controlling Board, a bipartisan legislative body, spent an hour debating the lottery proposal but in the end voted unanimously to allow the agency to spend $22.5 million to buy 1,200 machines from Intralot, the Greece-based supplier of lottery games and software.
Miller said the lottery has commitments to place half of the machines in vets posts and fraternal lodges. Intralot will get a $3 million fee for servicing the machines.
After payoffs to winners, the state will take 60 percent of the proceeds — about $10 million a year — with most of it earmarked for K-12 education. The remaining 40 percent, about $7 million, will go to the lodges and posts to cover operating costs and for charitable donations.
The lottery already has 2,300 less-sophisticated machines in bars and other locations across the state.
The audience at the Controlling Board meeting at the Statehouse was packed with veterans, many wearing VFW and American Legion caps, who sat silently during an hour of debate about the proposal.
Many vets oppose the lottery plan because they are running their own electronic raffle games, which provide a greater payoff. But Attorney General Mike DeWine declared those games to be illegal gambling last year. A coalition of veterans and lodges went to court and obtained an order preventing the machines from being shut down. A hearing on the matter is scheduled for this year.
Suzette Price, American Legion of Ohio service director, said after the vote that the Controlling Board “acted prematurely” by approving the lottery plan before a decision is rendered in the court case.
“They are forcing us to take an option we’re not comfortable with taking,” she said.
Sen. Tom Sawyer, D-Akron, a Controlling Board member, questioned the expansion of gambling without “the opportunity to hold hearings and call witnesses.” He said going through the Controlling Board — an approach Gov. John Kasich used successfully in expanding the state’s Medicaid program — “is a poor substitute for legislative action.”
Several times as Miller was peppered with questions, Controlling Board President Randy Cole, a Kasich appointee, came to her rescue with answers. He jokingly referred to it as a “lifeline from the president.”