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Companies sue over tip jar sticker fees

August 29, 1997

By BRENDAN KIRBY

Staff Writer

Two Hagerstown companies have filed a class-action suit against the Washington County Gaming Commission and the county government, alleging that officials overstepped their authority by charging fees for gaming stickers required on tip jars.

The suit, brought by Todd Amusements and Cigarette Service Co. and Jeff's Enterprises Inc., was filed Monday in Washington County Circuit Court.

In the suit, the companies allege that the county does not have the authority to charge fees for stickers that the state requires on each tip jar packet as a means of tracking the sale and use of the packets.

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A 1995 law regulating the popular form of gambling mandates that the county issue a gaming sticker to be affixed to each tip jar packet.

"It does not, however, authorize the defendants to charge a fee for a gaming sticker," the suit states.

The county charges wholesalers $1 each for the stickers.

Kathy Sterling, director of the Washington County Gaming Commission, said the fee raises between $7,000 and $8,000 per month. The money is used for the administration of the office, she said.

But for the six wholesalers who sell tip jars to more than 100 clubs, restaurants and other organizations with operators' licenses, the fee is a big expense.

The state law allows the county to adopt regulations necessary to carry out the law. But the suit contends that the fee exceeds the county's authority.

"They have no authority to create new taxes, charges or fees not expressly authorized by statute," the suit states.

Bill Schildt, the gaming commission's attorney, said he has not read the suit and declined to comment.

"We'll be filing a response in due course," he said.

Washington County Attorney Richard Douglas also declined to comment.

Since it is a class-action suit, a judgment in favor of the plaintiffs would benefit all holders of wholesaler's licenses.

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