DOVER, Del.- The Delaware House of Representatives has approved a bill to temporarily allow veterans and fraternal organization to turn back on their video gambling machines.
The state ordered these machines shut off two months ago, saying they were operating illegally - in part due to a lack of regulation. The groups have pushed lawmakers to help them get the machines back.
The measure passed 34 to 1 in the House Wednesday afternoon. Now it heads to the Senate, which plans to vote on it Thursday.
Moose Lodge 203 in Wyoming has had its machines off since November. Lodge administrator Larry Clark says all this is costing his organization about $1,800 a week.
"Community service - we quit doing that completely," he said. "We're just trying to survive. We're just trying to keep the doors open."
"I do enjoy playing them," said Alice Coventry, a lodge member. "I would be here to play."
The House-approved bill would allow the machines to go back on temporarily. But it expires June 30. Lawmakers hope to have a permanent solution by then.
"We'll be on a six-week break starting Thursday," said Rep. John Atkins, D-Millsboro. "So, it was very important for us to do something for our veterans and get them back on their feet financially."
The plan would allow organizations to have at most 20 machines, and it would split the money put into those machines like this. Fifty to 70-percent of every dollar in would go back to the players. Of what's left, a little less than half would go to the state, a little more than half to the groups.
It's not the split Clark is hoping for long-term. But, for now, it's a start he and lodge will take.
"If we get $100 out of it, that's $100 we didn't have last week. Hopefully we get more than $100 out of it."
A few representatives were concerned this bill leaves out some groups - like ones that don't have veteran or national fraternal ties.
Gov. Jack Markell's office wouldn't give a time table for when he might sign the bill, if the Senate approves it, but did say the governor understands there are time pressures here and will work to avoid delay.
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