The Georgia State Senate passed a bill yesterday allowing for video poker in the state by a vote of 35-16 yeaterday. The bill is now heading to a joint conference committee for final editing prior to passage.
House Bill 487 which passed the House almost unanimously last week, was up for debate for almost the entire afternoon yesterday. After three hours of debate and multiple attempts to amend the bill (some successful), the bill passed the Senate. Because of the amendments made, the bill must go to a conference to be hashed out so the same version can be passed in both chambers and then signed into law.
The bill will give control and enforcement of video poker machines to the Georgia Lottery Corp., with a share of the profits going towards the HOPE scholarship program and to Georgia Pre-K programs. Georgia's revenue would start at one percent and gradually escalate to ten percent, and the machines would be tied into central databases instead of operating as stand-alone machines. Funds will go directly to the Lottery Corporation instead of the general state coffers.
The plan has the support of the governor and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation as well, but it was almost sunk on the Senate floor yesterday in discussion before passing with amendments. The amendments adopted deal with the county and municipal approval of machines being installed,penalties for non-payment of fees, and the direction of fees into separate funds that would not be mixed with other potential uses.
The House and Senate have until March 28 to work out differences and pass the deal before the General Assembly draws to a close.