Proposal could give gaming commission more cash

September 23, 1997


Staff Writer

The Washington County Gaming Commission could turn over as much as $1 million more a year to charities and fire companies if a proposed change in the county's tip jar law is approved next year by the General Assembly.

The gaming commission on Tuesday proposed increasing the share of tip jar money it receives from private clubs from 10 percent to 15 percent of gross profits beginning July 1, 1998.

Under existing law, beginning July 1, 1998, clubs must give charities 20 percent of their gross profits. Half of that would go to the gaming commission for distribution and the clubs give the other half, including a portion in the form of in-kind services, directly to charities.


Under the proposed change, the clubs would give the gaming commission 15 percent of their gross profits and would not be required to donate directly to charities.

Bill Porter, a club representative on the gaming commission, suggested the idea. Porter said the clubs didn't want to have the hassle of doing paperwork to document the in-kind services that can be used to reduce the club's obligation.

Up to 5 percent of gross profits from tip jars could be donated in the form of in-kind services.

Sue Tuckwell, gaming commission chairwoman, said the current law was "a nightmare to monitor and control." She predicted that the clubs would continue to provide in-kind services in addition to giving 15 percent of their tip jar proceeds to the gaming commission, even if not required to do so by law.

Tuckwell said the gaming commission had to pay an auditor $3,000 a quarter to make spot checks of clubs' donations in the form of in-kind services.

The gaming commission had projected in January that it would receive $1.3 million in fiscal year 1997, which ended June 30, $1.75 million in the fiscal 1998 and $2.15 million in fiscal 1999.

But receipts have outstripped expectations. The commission disbursed $1.77 million in fiscal 1997, $470,000 more than had been projected.

The county's fire and rescue companies get 40 percent of the commission receipts.

Tuckwell warned that without an elimination of the law's sunset provision, money would stop flowing to charities after June 30, 1999.

Commissioner James R. Wade said the county's top priority in the coming legislative session will be elimination of the sunset provision.

Jay Grimes, president of the Washington County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association, said the boost in revenues from the gaming commission would be a big help.

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