Georgia Lottery Scandal Unveiled: Compliance Inspector Accused of Bribery

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A scandal has rocked the Georgia Lottery Commission, with allegations that have ignited much more than mere shockwaves through a state traditionally known for its conservative stance towards gambling. Allegedly, the game wasn’t played by the rules, and a compliance inspector’s greed took precedence over his duty to the Georgia Lottery.

The hard truth has been unveiled, where compliance inspector Michael Jerome Kessler Sr., a figure employed by the Georgia Lottery to ensure adherence to state regulations, has been accused of indulging in misconduct. His abode was ambushed by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) agents on Monday, setting forth a series of events that ruffled the once placid lottery operations in Georgia, particularly in Henry County.

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The charges levelled against Kessler are one of accepting bribes – or more specifically, kickbacks from store owners in order for smooth approval of their operations during the stipulated lottery inspections. At least three stores with coin-operated amusement machines, or COAMs, were reported to have churned up $2,000 each for Kessler’s self-serving ends.

Now, Georgia may have her reservations about gambling; there are no commercial or tribal casinos and while horse racetracks exist, parimutuel betting is strictly off-limits. However, things took a turn in 1991 when “skill-based games” including video poker and similar slot-like gaming machines were legalized in convenience stores, gas stations, and truck stops. Termed as “Class B COAMs,” as distinct from “Class A COAMs” such as claw-grabbers and pinball machines, these devices, once unregulated, became hot targets for manipulation with cash payouts.

Georgia’s tryst with such questionable practices meant a full-fledged licensing and regulation framework was put into place in 2013, thus paving the way for a new supervisor: the Georgia Lottery Commission (GLC). Yet, the giddy allure of cash prizes proved too tempting, attracting players and heightening the machines’ profitability; a situation ripe for any corrupt official willing to overlook common ethics.

Expressing his concern on the issue, State Senator Emanuel Jones, residing in Henry County and a member of the Georgia Lottery Commission, stressed that “integrity was the bedrock of the lottery, and its mission.” Aware of the potential for criminal elements to seep into gambling activities across the state, Jones reinforced the importance of upholding the highest standard among the lottery’s employees.

According to the 2013 law, 45% of the proceeds from the games go to the companies that dispense COAMs and to the venues that host them. The state’s share, a notable 10%, funds Georgia’s HOPE Scholarship and Pre-K programs. Over $3 billion was spent on Class B COAMs in the past year, but despite the hefty share of $90 million from the remaining $900 million — $2.1 billion being returned to players — some lawmakers contend that it’s not enough.

It appears that in the game of luck and fortune, the stakes are higher than ever, and glaring eyes will undoubtedly be watching the Georgia Lottery Commission’s next move. It remains to be seen whether this incident signals a turning point in Georgia’s stance on gambling — one that will hopefully safeguard its noble intentions.