- Associated Press - Thursday, September 27, 2012

ANNAPOLIS | Veterans organizations in Maryland can apply next week for a license to have up to five instant lottery pull tab machines at their facilities to help raise money for veterans, but it is expected to take months before the machines will be playable because regulations still need to be adopted.

The provision, which takes effect Monday, was included in the gambling expansion measure passed in a special session in August. While the main components of the measure to allow table games like blackjack at casinos and a casino site in Prince George’s County require voter approval in November, the provision for veterans does not.

“We’re looking forward to it,” said Joe Peters, commander of VFW Post 2632 in California in southern Maryland. “The more money we can make off of pull tabs, the more veterans we can help.”

The law does not include the Eastern Shore, where slot machines are allowed at veterans organizations. It also does not include Montgomery County, where lawmakers asked not to be included.

A number of factors make it unclear how much money will be generated. For one thing, the state’s lottery commission still needs to determine how much money goes out in prizes. In other states, the amount returned to players has been about two-thirds. Veterans organizations will get 5 to 6 percent of gross sales. The lottery will get the rest that is not returned to players, and in fiscal year 2015, the Maryland Veterans Trust Fund will get 10 percent of that money.

Carole Everett, a spokeswoman for the lottery, said officials are still gathering information about the number of groups that will be interested.

“The lottery is still gathering information on veterans organizations that are out there and eligible for this program, and we will try to move this along as quickly as possible,” Ms. Everett said.

Other laws approved to help veterans also are taking effect on Monday.

A Task Force on Military Service Members, Veterans and the Courts is being formed to study military service-related mental health issues and substance abuse problems that may arise in civil, family and criminal cases. It will explore recommendations regarding a special court for defendants who are current or former service members who may suffer from mental illness, substance abuse or post-traumatic stress syndrome related to military service and the readjustment to civilian life.

The panel will report findings and recommendations by Dec. 1, 2013.

A new law also extends the date they can apply for the Veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq Conflicts Scholarship from June 30, 2016, to June 30, 2020. The Office of Student Financial Assistance also may continue to renew the scholarships after the June 30, 2020, deadline for veterans who received the initial scholarships before the deadline. In fiscal year 2012, an estimated 120 veterans received scholarships totaling about $550,000.

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