4 Feb

Ignorance of Law No Excuse for Illegal Video Poker Machines at Veterans Club

Illegal Video Poker Machines Seized from Grantville Veterans Association

Grantville Veterans Association – photo courtesy Newnan Times-Herald

The quiet town of Grantville was shaken up Monday as authorities from the Georgia Lottery Commission raided the Grantville Veterans Association, seizing numerous video poker machines that were not licensed for operation. According to a representative from the GVA, he was unaware that the gambling devices were in violation of any laws.

A few years ago, that summation was correct. However, in 2014, amendments to the state’s gaming law went into effect. All video poker machines and other “coin operated amusement machines” must now be licensed and linked to the state’s lottery division for regulation and review. Grantville’s Chief of Police, Steve Whitlock, said the machines found at the GVA were not licensed.

In 2013, officials passed a new law, HB 487, requiring all coin operated games to be regulated by the state’s lottery commission. We’re not just talking about gambling devices, either. All coin operated games, including arcades, pinball machines, pool tables and even ski-ball, must be connected to the Georgia lottery system.

In order to legally operate coin operated amusement machines, business owners must pay a licensing fee based on the class of the machine(s) and number installed. Games like pool and pinball, which offer no reward or subsequent plays for superior performance, are consider Class A gaming devices, and incur an annual fee of $500 to $3,500 (based on number of machines).

The video poker machines seized from the GVA – which were, consequently, paying out cash prizes – are defined as Class B machines, and require an annual $5,000 licensing fee.

Despite these laws having been in place for a couple of years now, such information isn’t widely known – at least not along the southern border of Coweta County. A representative for the GVA wasn’t the only one who claimed ignorance of the need to license and link video poker machines through the Georgia Lottery Corporation. The town’s police chief said he was not aware of the law, either.

Whitlock estimated that the illegal gambling devices in question had been operational in the GVA for about two years. He sympathized with the GVA, stating that he believes the video poker machines were installed, and operating legally, before the new laws went into effect. Unfortunately, Whitlock also pointed out that “ignorance of the law is no excuse”.

Throughout history, ignorance of the law has failed to hold up in court under any circumstances, although it could result in a decreased penalty if the presiding judged is thoroughly convinced of a defendant’s reasonable lack of awareness.

But as Whitlock went on to say – and most judges would agree with – knowledge of the law is essential to running any business. “You can’t sit here and say ‘I didn’t know.’ If you are doing this in your business you need to know.”

Whitlock confirmed that an investigation into the GVA through the state’s Lottery Commission is underway.

According to state law, the owner of the Grantville Veterans Association could face up to a $50,000 fine for operating the illegal video poker machines, and risks the loss of any and all state or local licenses currently held by the establishment (e.g. liquor license) for anywhere from 1 to 5 years.