Georgia Lottery inspector accused of taking bribes to pass store inspections

Home » Georgia Lottery inspector accused of taking bribes to pass store inspections

Inspector ironically skirts process for ensuring stores follow regulations

By Kate Northrop

A former Georgia Lottery employee was arrested and charged with three counts of bribery after investigators found he accepted bribes to pass store inspections.

A Georgia Lottery Corporation (GLC) inspector who took bribes in exchange for passing store inspections and has since been fired from his position and arrested.

Former GLC Compliance Inspector Michael Kessler, 62, of Rockdale County, GA, caught the attention of the Georgia Lottery Commission as soon as they heard allegations that he was accepting bribes from store owners while performing his duties.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation took over the case and discovered that Kessler had convinced at least three stores in Henry County with coin-operated amusement machines regulated by the GLC to pay him to pass inspections.

State Senator and Lottery Commissioner Emanuel Jones told WSBTV that he was “blown away” when he read through the documents recounting Kessler’s bribery accusations.

“Integrity is the bedrock of the Lottery and its mission, by the way,” Jones said in an interview with the outlet. “Essentially, people are making bets. They’re gambling when they’re using machines across the state or when they are betting on any other activities that we allow in Georgia, and we don’t want a criminal element to seep into that.”

The coin-operated amusement machines, or COAMs, are skill-based games overseen by the GLC and can be found in places like convenience stores, gas stations, and truck stops. They are similar to slot machines, but technically rely on a player’s skill to win a prize. However, these machines are regulated in Georgia such that prizes are limited to non-cash merchandise.

It is still possible for retailers to try and skirt the rules regarding cash payouts, as it makes the machines more appealing to customers and therefore more profitable for stores owning them.

While Kessler’s job was to ensure stores were abiding by the GLC’s regulations, he did quite the opposite. The GBI found that he had been paid $2,000 by at least three stores each for passing their inspections of the machines.

The GLC fired Kessler as soon as the GBI reported their findings.

“I don’t believe anyone who’s been accused of accepting bribes should be affiliated any way with our lottery in our great state,” Jones said.

GBI agents executed a search warrant of Kessler’s home in Rockdale County on Mon., May 13, a press release from the GBI said.

According to Rockdale County Jail records, he was arrested by the Henry County Sheriff’s Office, booked on the evening of Wed., May 15, and has been charged with three counts of bribery.

“Integrity is a cornerstone value at the Georgia Lottery Corporation,” a statement from GLC reads. “Our employees are held to the highest standard to ensure that we achieve our important mission of maximizing revenues for HOPE and Pre-K.”

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