The Vermont Lottery Commission is testing out a new lottery vending machine that would be used in bars, restaurants and clubs in Vermont that sell alcoholic beverages.
Until now, “WinStations” or lottery vending machines have only been available in convenience stores. State lawmakers say that placing electronic lottery machines in restaurants and bars is a “major change” in state policy that must undergo legislative scrutiny.
The “Fast Play” lottery self-service “console” spits out instant lottery prizes. Tickets cost $1, $2 or $5. Prizes range from $500 to $3,000, according to the Vermont Lottery website.
The “Fast Play” device, which uses an existing state lottery ticket game, is a lighted arcade-style vending machine that looks similar to a popular gambling product available in other states known as keno. The commission gave a presentation of the Intralot machine (an Ohio Lottery model) at Gusto’s bar in Barre last week. A provision in the 2014 appropriations bill makes Keno, a common vending lottery machine used in other states, subject to legislative approval.
Greg Smith, executive director of the Vermont Lottery Commission, says the “Fast Play” game has been around for a number of years, and offering it through a vending machine does not violate state statutes. There is also no state law barring the devices from bars and restaurants. The state has offered instant tickets for the Pick 3 and Pick 4 numbers games at local mini marts for two years. There is no prohibition on the introduction of new vending machine gambling options as long as the games are already part of the lottery, Smith said. Slot machines and other mechanical gambling devices are prohibited in Vermont.
Traditionally, lottery expansion proposals go through the House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Janet Ancel said.
Ancel, who chairs House Ways and Means, said she is not personally in favor of expanding the lottery. Putting lottery vending machines in bars, she said, is a “big step,” and the Legislature as a whole ought to review the proposal.
Sen. Tim Ashe, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, says the commission can’t go forward with consoles in restaurants and bars without the Legislature weighing in.
“My own feeling is these things are like indoor billboards, they are completely vulgar,” Ashe said. “While they might have a place in a convenience store under today’s rubric, but in bars and restaurants they are just going to be garish.”
The proposal is in its infancy, Smith says. The lottery commission is showing the consoles to club and bar owners to see if they have an interest in leasing the machines.
“We don’t have any machines in place, no cost structure designed for this and no machines have been ordered,” Smith says.
Jeb Spaulding, the secretary of the Agency of Administration, says he didn’t know about the “Fast Play” vending machines until this week, and the Shumlin administration does not have a proposal on the table at this time. The commission, he said, is acting independently of the governor’s office and the Shumlin administration would want to “think carefully,” about bringing the consoles into bars and restaurants. Exploring the idea is, however, a “reasonable thing to do,” Spaulding said.
Smith would not say how much the “Fast Play” game would generate in revenues.
According to its 2013 annual report, the Vermont Lottery Commission generated total revenues of $101 million last year. Of that amount, $22.4 million was transferred to the Education Fund for K-12 public schools. About $64.4 million was distributed in prizes. The cost to run the lottery was about $14 million.