Slot machines still unplugged at veterans clubsState sets March 1 goal to get video lotteries running
A temporary measure allowing Delaware fraternal organizations to operate video lotteries was signed by Gov. Jack Markell, Jan. 30. According to the bill, machines cannot be turned on until clubs are licensed by the State Lottery Office.
“The public needs to know the machines are not on,” said Kim Yost, a bartender at American Legion Post 17. “None of the legions are up and running.”
Yost said Delaware State Lottery Office does not have licenses ready for the organizations. “It’s not fair that the government is not complying or helping,” she said.
“They can’t pay their bills,” Yost said. “There’s so many that are in big trouble.”
Slot machines – a major source of funding for veterans’ organizations in the state – were shut down after many posts received a letter from Delaware Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement and Delaware State Police. According to the letter, the machines constituted illegal gambling, and the clubs faced revocation of their liquor licenses if the machines were not turned off.
The General Assembly passed House Bill 1 in January, which allows fraternal groups, such as American Legion, Elks, Moose and Veterans of Foreign Wars, to operate up to 20 video lottery machines per site. The bill is scheduled to sunset on Sunday, June 30. Legislators said they hope to have a permanent solution in place by then.
Vernon Kirk, director of the Delaware Lottery, said Secretary of Finance Tom Cook set a goal of turning machines back on starting Friday, March 1. “We are going to license them, as HB 1 requires,” he said.
Kirk said a number of organizations turned in applications Feb. 5. “That’s the beginning of the process,” he said.
Applicants must undergo a background check and fill out other paperwork, including an electronic fund transfer form and a retail agreement, outlining the rules for operating a video lottery, Kirk said. Licensing the machine vendors is another process, he said.
“We’re not handing out licenses just because you hand in an application,” Kirk said.
Tom Jones, a member of David C. Dolby Sussex American Veterans in Millsboro, Delaware Veterans Coalition and the American Legion, said he and other veterans turned in applications, Feb. 5. Now, the organizations are appointing one person per club to represent the group and undergo a background check, he said.
On the upside, Jones said, when permanent legislation is crafted, the process to license clubs and vendors will be less work.
“It’s a new process they’ve never done before,” he said. “They’re holding up their end of the bargain.”
Jones said representatives of fraternal organizations are working with Markell’s administration to craft permanent legislation, which he expects will be introduced shortly after the General Assembly reconvenes, Tuesday, March 12.