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ATLANTA -- Georgia's Supreme Court last week struck down a lower court ruling that would have prevented the state from enacting a ban on video poker and keno machines in convenience stores.
In a unanimous decision, the state's highest court said that owning and using the coin-operated machines, which offer Las Vegas-style games of chance, was "not a fundamental right" and dismissed concerns that a law banning the devices was too vague.
Faced with an influx of the machines from South Carolina, which banned them in 1999, Georgia lawmakers passed the ban last year with broad bipartisan support and Democratic Gov. Roy Barnes signed it into law last September. The law, however, hit a roadblock several months later when a Superior Court judge struck it down as unconstitutional, a ruling that was cheered by gaming companies who had challenged it as a violation of basic property rights.
State retailers joined together to appeal the decision to the state's highest court.
Georgia is among a handful of southern states that have moved to ban or curtail the video gaming machines, which are found in thousands of bars and c-stores throughout the region, Reuters reported. In addition to South Carolina, North Carolina has also restricted their use.
A Georgia Bureau of Investigation report last year said there were about 20,000 machines in the state, generating at least $1 billion a year in revenues. In one raid, agents seized machines that were believed to be earning $600 each per day.