Gaming machine discussions continue during joint services committee meeting

Tuesday, April 2, 2024–2:00 p.m.

-David Crowder, WRGA News-

With moratoriums in place, officials in Rome, Cave Spring, and Floyd County are researching ways to address coin-operated amusement machines.

The gaming machines are regulated by the Georgia Lottery Corporation, so there are limits to what local governments can do.

“The reality is, maybe not at every one of these establishments, but oftentimes, in addition to the playing of the games, there is prostitution and drug activity, and that’s the problem,” said Floyd County Commission Chair Allison Watters during Tuesday’s Rome-Floyd Joint Services Committee meeting. “So, what are we going to do? We feel we should get some of the money to help solve some of those issues.”

Rome Mayor Craig McDaniel also told the committee that his biggest issue with the gaming machines is that there is a lot of money leaving the area, and the local governments get nothing. He noted that gaming machines brought in over $1.4 billion in gross revenue statewide in 2023.

“The lottery only gets five percent of that money,” he said. “The rest of that money is divided equally between the people who have the contracts and the operators. If we were to require a stamp, and they to go through an office, I am using the city clerk’s office as an example, where we could go in and charge a fee for each machine, and that stamp had to be renewed every year.”

McDaniel added that the revenue that is raised from the fees could go to address issues in the community such as homelessness, mental health, substance abuse, and transitional housing.

Assistant Floyd County Attorney Chris Jackson warned the committee that implementing such a fee could result in legal challenges.

“If you are going beyond what the code says you can do, the ten or eleven items we can definitely regulate, one of these stores is going to say we are going too far and they will immediately sue and ask for a restraining order off of that,” he said. “It doesn’t mean that this isn’t the way to go, but it means that you have to go into it with eyes wide open.”

According to Jackson, the county has been considering requiring business licenses to have some sort of say about gaming machines. He added that one of the first steps during the moratorium is to get an exact number of how many machines there are in the county. He suggested the best solution would be a statewide solution.

Watters proposed that members of the committee get the blessings of both the Rome City and Floyd County Commissions to proceed, and then consult with the Georgia Municipal Association and the Association County Commissioners of Georgia for suggestions. She also said they should contact State Senator Chuck Hufstetler and other members of the local legislative delegation to see if there is a statewide solution.

In March of this year alone, coin-operated amusement machines brought in $132,208,671.22 in net revenue, with the lottery receiving 13,221,002.69, according to the Georgia Lottery Corporation website.

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