The Berks-Mont News (http://www.berksmontnews.com)

Rep. Gary Day: updated small games of chance law protects volunteers


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Since the Pennsylvania General Assembly updated the state’s small games of chance law during the last legislative session, there have been many questions surrounding the new updates and the impact of those updates on nonprofit organizations and charities in Pennsylvania.
The Small Games of Chance Act, which allows qualified organizations to offer gambling through raffles, punchboards and some other games, had not been updated in more than 20 years and was in need of a modernization.
The legislature’s intent with the legislative updates was to increase prize limits to help volunteer fire and rescue companies, veterans groups, booster clubs and others raise money for the projects that benefit local communities. The intent was also to maintain accountability and control measures that ensure consumer protection.
Before the update, all money raised through the raffle had to have been used for the benefit of the community that the organization was serving and was not to go into the groups operating expense. The only exception to this was if the organization operates for the benefit of the community such as a fire or rescue company.
The new law allows organizations to keep up to 30 percent of the take for their operating expenses.
Another update to the law allows for organizations in Pennsylvania to participate in 50-50 raffles, which were illegal to engage in before the updated law.
According to the state police’s Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement (LCE) – the agency charged with enforcing the law for those organizations with liquor licenses that conduct small games of chance – far more warnings are issued than citations, and most of those deal with administrative violations, rather than criminal actions.
To address these changes, the LCE held public information sessions to explain enforcement. It is fair and reasonable that the bureau outline the entire law, not just the changes.
According to Representative Gary Day some laws, that came as a surprise to some volunteers, have been law since 1982.
“These organizations are the lifeblood of the 187th District and I try to protect their ability to operate in the charitable spirit the many volunteers exhibit,” Day said.
My staff and I have been listening to the concerns from groups in the 187th District for the past few months, and the majority of questions and concerns we’re hearing deal with the original act and not the changes made by Act 2 of 2012. Please know that this continues to be a very important issue to me and I have been working with my colleagues on a legislative remedy.
Day was recently appointed to the House Gaming Oversight Committee, which was set to consider legislation in early February that will make some needed clarifications to address some of the concerns of the community groups.
Many local groups have raised concern to Day and have asked him to look into issues such as the legislative definition of a public interest charity. Local organizations have also asked Day to look into the various record-keeping requirement adjustments that come with the updated law.
Local groups in Berks County would also like to know clarification that the LCE does not have enforcement powers over small games violations with organizations that solely have a special occasion liquor permit. Charities and non-profits are also asking for that the requirement for a limited occasion license be removed from the law.
Groups are also asking that money earned does not have to be spent by the end of the same calendar year but rather 12 months from when the money is earned.
The Department of Revenue has agreed to extend its deadline for annual and semi-annual reports from Feb. 1, 2013, to Feb. 1, 2014. This extension was given so that clubs can use the time to obtain all the data that is needed to comply.
Day believes that this is such an important issue that he is planning another meeting in the district to address issues that may still require attention.
Provided by Gary Day’s Office.