Governor In Position To Decide Gambling’s Future In Georgia

October 15, 2012 13:00 pm

by Charlie · 17 comments

Today’s Courier Herald Column:

The head of Georgia’s Office of Planning and Budget is poised to take over operations at the Georgia Lottery Corp.  The rumor of Alford’s pending appointment was broken by the Atlanta Journal Constitution a couple of weeks ago and last week Alford was confirmed as the sole finalist for the position by Georgia Lottery Corp officials.

Alford currently serves on the board of Georgia Lottery Corp, the seven member group appointed by the Governor to oversee the operations of Georgia’s lottery which funds the HOPE Scholarship and Georgia’s Pre-K program.  She is the former President of Georgia’s virtual technical college and assumed the head job at the Office of Planning and Budget in 2010.  Her husband Dean was appointed by Governor Deal to the Board of Regents which oversees Georgia’s colleges and universities last year.

Alford will be Georgia’s third lottery director.  Margaret DeFrancisco, selected to take over Georgia’s lottery in 2003, has previously announced her retirement.  Georgia’s lottery has been considered a success, though critics charge that the lottery has been too generous with management bonuses and provides a payout to winners higher than the legislature intended.

Alford’s selection appears aimed at putting someone trusted with managing financials through tough times in the position.  Her appointment, however, is not without controversy.

Lottery board member Frances Rogers, appointed by Governor Perdue in 2010, resigned during a conference call where Alford was announced as the sole finalist for the job.  She told the AJC “There were things that were said and I decided I was not going to be part of the process…I felt like there was undue influence on us. I feel like independence of the board has sort of been taken away.”

Rogers is hardly unique in her feelings of appointed boards and their independence under Governor Deal.  Perhaps she missed the “teachable moment” when former Department of Natural Resources Board Member Warren Budd chose to vote against the wishes of the Deal Administration.  Budd was publicly called out by the Governor’s office and not re-appointed to his position.

The Governor’s Deputy Chief of Staff Brian Robinson said at the time that the Governor is looking for people “team players ready to carry out his agenda for the state” and added “if anyone on any board considers himself indispensable, this is what educators call a teachable moment.”

With Rogers’ resignation, Governor Deal will get to select one additional board member to replace an appointee of Governor Perdue early, thus helping solidify his own selection of team players willing to implement his agenda.

The significance of these events is that developer Dan O’Leary is still peddling his color drawings for what he calls a “world class” casino to be placed in Gwinnett County, just of I-85.  O’Leary is using a broad definition of the Lottery Corporation’s charter to extend casino style video games as the basis for his proposal.  All that is required for his plan to move forward is a vote by the board of Georgia Lottery Corporation.  No act of the legislature is required.  No signature of the Governor is required.

During his campaign, the Governor briefly indicated he was open to the idea of casino gambling in Georgia before quickly shutting the idea down.  His public comments have still indicated he is against the proposal.

Yet during the Republican Convention, a question was mysteriously placed on the Republican ballots for the July primary asking “Should Georgia have casino gambling with funds going to education?”  The measure  was almost evenly split, with .5% more in favor than opposed.  It appears the question was to gage feelings within the Republican base on the issue, and may possibly signal another change of heart forthcoming from the Governor.

Funding of the HOPE Scholarship has been one issue which Democrats in the legislature have been able to gain some traction.  Costs to attend Georgia colleges and universities have continued to rise faster than lottery funds into the HOPE trust fund have.  An opportunity to have an additional income stream flowing into HOPE coffers would have to look very attractive to a Governor, especially if an “independent” board authorized it without requiring any fingerprints from elected politicians.

Except, there already are fingerprints.  Let’s consider this one a teachable moment amongst ourselves.

Bridget October 15, 2012 at 1:19 pm

I hope the legal parts of the casino makes it way onto either AG Olens or the GBIs radar.

http://www.peachpundit.com/2012/03/05/a-winning-house-hint-were-not-the-house/

Three Jack October 15, 2012 at 1:57 pm

A big reason state college tuition/student costs have risen is the lottery guaranteed funding. If you want costs to rise unhindered, let’s give the state a casino from which to gather more funds.

I voted ‘no’ on the July ballot measure because I oppose government having a monopoly on any business, much less one that has incredible profit margins. Open it up to private ownership of casinos and i bet you would see a much larger majority in favor.

wicker October 15, 2012 at 2:10 pm

Opening up to private companies would mean making gambling fully legal like it is in Nevada. Right now, gambling is TECHNICALLY illegal in this state, with the education (and now education, medical care and daycare) lottery an exception.

I don’t know about the idea that the lottery is increasing tuition. Virtually everyone who received HOPE – people with good GPAs and standardized test scores – would have attended college anyway. Also, similar tuition increases have happened in states without lotteries. Many people blame the rising tuition on the increased number of people that attend college, but HOPE has not increased the number of people attending college (which was never its goal). More people are attending college because a declining manufacturing/agricultural sector (due to technology, offshoring and increased foreign competition) means that it is much harder to have a middle class lifestyle with just a high school diploma (and many workplaces compound t his by requiring a bachelor’s degree for work that could be done with an associate’s degree or technical certificate from a junior college or vocational school).

xdog October 15, 2012 at 3:12 pm

“Virtually everyone who received HOPE – people with good GPAs and standardized test scores – would have attended college anyway. ”

That may be true now but it wasn’t always true. HOPE resulted in many families sending children to college for the first time. That was Zell’s original vision, and it was a good one.

If you want to put HOPE on better financial footing, means test the families who receive scholarships. Don’t set up slot machine warehouses.

wicker October 15, 2012 at 4:31 pm

I am all for means testing HOPE, but the reality is that for low and moderate income students, the Pell Grant, student loans, work study etc. was always available. Plus, the many HOPE students who lost their grants soon after attending college used those or other means to pay for their educations. So, I do not believe that HOPE significantly increased the numbers of kids in college. It did increase the number of kids who stay in-state over (better) out of state schools, and that was why HOPE was enacted. The more progressive notions for HOPE were added later as PR political spin.

xdog October 15, 2012 at 6:37 pm

You said those who got HOPE money would have gone to school anyway. That’s not the same as saying the numbers attending college increased.

I remember HOPE as being a very big thing. Anecdotally, I know of several persons whose son/daughter/nephew/niece took advantage of HOPE to go to college and who were the first of their family to attend.

Maybe a geographical analysis of who gets HOPE money would demonstrate this.

John Walraven October 16, 2012 at 8:05 am

@ Three Jack: the July ballot measure did not state that the government would have a monopoly on any gaming expansion. It merely asked if the voter would approve it if funds went to education. Not all funds…

Each state earmarks its revenues from gaming differently. The language in any resolution passed to put a ballot question before the voters would contain the specific earmarks of any revenues. I don’t believe the State of Georgia will vote to get into gaming management. However, earmarked revenues could be placed into the resolution to deliver a revenue stream to “education,” with the G.A. being empowered to determine where to spend such revenues on education.

Three Jack October 16, 2012 at 10:21 am

John wrote, “I don’t believe the State of Georgia will vote to get into gaming management”.

The Georgia Lottery Corporation already manages gaming and would be responsible for a casino if it was approved. So yes the state does and will continue to get into gaming managment.

The developer proposing to build the video casino stated the following with regard to the July ballot question, “O’Leary said that, in order to get to the heart of the issue, the real question should be: “Are voters in favor of the Georgia Lottery expanding with VLT games in a single controlled environment to save the HOPE scholarship?”

In other words, even the developer understands GLC will control any gambling interests in GA.

John Walraven October 16, 2012 at 4:05 pm

I believe we’re blending subject matters. You’re correct in that should the Lottery Board vote to expand its operations to include a facility with VLTs, that they will have a role in its management.

What I was speaking to was that the non-binding Primary ballot question wasn’t, as your quote from O’Leary points out, a question specific to VLTs or the project he has proposed. It was exceptionally broad and gave us an indication from the plain-English meaning of the question that Georgia Republicans support casino gambling where education would receive a financial benefit.

For the purposes of a ballot question to amend the Constitution, one would imagine that the term “education” would have to be more clearly defined, as would the term “casino gambling”. Nowhere in gaming law are those two terms limited to something akin to the programs the Georgia Lottery currently funds or a single facility containing VLTs, respectively.

http://www.gamblingandthelaw.com is a good resource for this area.

wicker October 15, 2012 at 2:00 pm

Curious that more manufactured outrage exists over a MARTA board member sending an email asking other members what direction they were leaning towards in a pending vote than there is over stuff like this.

greencracker October 15, 2012 at 5:26 pm

Debbie Alford is wife of Dean Alford, lobbyist for Power4Georgians (when it was still a thing) and (still?) a Regent.

Scott65 October 15, 2012 at 8:24 pm

Is it just me…or is Deal and Co making a whole lot of “final answer” decisions? He has final say on transportation, final say on a 3% across the board cut, and now final say on this (I guess thats what happens when the legislature is so damn dysfunctional) … and numerous appointments to positions that his appointees are not qualified to run…I’d say its about time for Georgians to wise up a clip a little bit off the Governor’s wings. Thats a lot of power for someone who looks more to hold a grudge than do whats right

Calypso October 16, 2012 at 9:07 am

“Is it just me…or is Deal and Co making a whole lot of “final answer” decisions?”

It ain’t just you…

Dave Bearse October 15, 2012 at 8:36 pm

“Perhaps she [Rogers] missed the “teachable moment” when former Department of Natural Resources Board Member Warren Budd chose to vote against the wishes of the Deal Administration.”

Rogers is apparently guided by ethical standards that differ from state government’s legal = ethical standard and refused to be a part to cronyism and/or imposition on board independence.

“All that is required for his plan to move forward is a vote by the board of Georgia Lottery Corporation. No act of the legislature is required. No signature of the Governor is required.”

Remember SRTA and the GA400 toll?

rightofcenter October 16, 2012 at 1:05 pm

While Ms. Roger’s intentions may be good, her execution is rather ill-conceived. The only leverage a governor (this governor or any governor) has over a board member is the carrot of re-appointment. The way to assert independence is to vote the way you feel is right, with the understanding that it may cost you your re-appointment. Resigning in mid-stream just gives the current governor more power, while nullifying an independent vote.

wicker October 16, 2012 at 4:40 pm

Well, choosing not to serve on something that is a mockery and corrupt is a good thing. It is a moral and ethical decision, as well as a way of deciding that you have better things to do with your time than pretending that your work and input matters in a rigged system.

Also, it is a way to call attention to what is going on. Ms. Rogers could have stayed put and voted correctly (and generally been outvoted anyway mind you) but that would not have called attention to what she feels is a problem with the way that business is being done by this administration. Now the media and voters who choose to care know that something is up, and hopefully the result will be more scrutiny (and not just of the lottery board). Had she just remained on the board to be the voice of conscience, that never would have happened.

Scott65 October 16, 2012 at 7:45 pm

I agree with you 100%. So, there’s attention to the problem. The bigger problem is that absolutely nothing will come of it, as is the case with most things Deal and Co (and for that matter Perdue Inc). The things they do that are ethically challenged have no consequence. The more you get away with the more you do, and either blame it on the leftwing socialists who have it in for you, or your republican challenger (there is a book I hear), or worst of all…you just ignore it laughing all the way. When republicans in this state stop being apologists (and thats not all of them but a clear majority), and stand up and vote for someone else, it wont change…at least until we have another Glenn Richardson moment…oh, thats right, he’s running for office again…anyone see the irony there from what you just read?

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