Local groups reject state gaming machines
CELINA - The Ohio Lottery Commission has delivered 790 new gaming machines to 225 organizations across the state. However, local veteran and fraternal organizations still refuse to place the machines in their clubs and hope to keep their current machines, which make more money for the groups.
The new machines started being delivered in September, the lottery commission's Danielle Babb said. The commission still has more than 100 machines on order to be placed in an additional 29 locations. The state has authorized 1,200 machines to operate in veterans and fraternal organization posts across the state with a maximum of five machines per location. The new machines would give the lottery commission 60 percent of the proceeds while the organizations would receive 40 percent, Babb said. But organizations such as VFW Post 5713 in Celina are waiting on a decision by a Franklin Common Pleas Court judge to determine if they actually must switch to the new Multi-Purpose Next Generation machines. Until the judge rules, the organization along with several others refuses to use the new machines and continues to use the ones Attorney General Mike DeWine says are illegal slot machines and has ordered removed.
But Columbus attorney Andy Douglas, a former Ohio Supreme Court justice, got a temporary restraining order halting the removal in December when he filed a lawsuit on behalf of a coalition opposing DeWine's action. The Ohio Lottery Commission has offered to allow organizations to use the new machines but Post 5713 quartermaster Mort Ward said he will not replace the post's eight machines until the lawsuit is settled. Right now the money generated from the machines gives a percentage to the organizations and a percentage is used for various charities around the community, Ward said. Ward said area charitable activities including the Boy and Girl Scouts, scholarships for students and services for veterans will all suffer if the new machines are brought in. Douglas said he doesn't understand the state's position. "They say it's OK to have a lottery and give the state all that money, but not OK for one of these organizations to have a unskilled game in their establishment that gives most of that money to charities," Douglas said. No one is forcing the organizations to use the machines offered by the Lottery Commission, DeWine spokesman Dan Tierney said.
"But we are saying that the machines some of the organizations are using are illegal because they are a raffle machine, which meets the definition of a slot machine. We understand these are organizations that give a lot to charity, but we also need to comply with Ohio law," Tierney said. Babb said the MPNG represents a "legal gaming solution exclusively for veterans and fraternaln posts, allowing them to provide an attractive gaming product to their patrons." Ward said the post's current eight machines have raised more than $87,000 for local charities and veterans groups since November 2011. "If we have to use the other machines, then we're not going to be able to do that. We never tout our own success. But the money from these machines costs the taxpayers nothing," Ward added. John Taylor, an American Legion Post 210 trustee, said his post still uses three of the old machines and agrees the new machines are a bad idea. The post is not involved in the lawsuit but Taylor said the state American Legion organization joined the lawsuit on the post's behalf. "We make about $40,000 a year from these machines," Taylor said. "Most of that goes back to the community here. If we have to take the new ones, that's not going to happen and our club will also suffer." Douglas said he believes a hearing in the lawsuit will happen early next summer.