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Tip jar law called restrictive

December 10, 1997

Tip jar law called restrictive

By LAURA ERNDE

Staff Writer

The tip jar law doesn't give nonprofit clubs enough leeway to spend gambling profits on the causes that they choose, an American Legion commander told the Washington County Commissioners Tuesday.

"You're coming close to strangling the goose that's laying the golden eggs," Clear Spring American Legion Commander John Bumbaugh told the commissioners.

According to the law, clubs must donate 15 percent of their tip jar profits to charity. The percentage is due to rise to 20 percent on July 1.

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Half of the donations must go to the Washington County Gaming Commission, which distributes it to fire companies and charities.

The other half can be recorded as in-kind contributions that the clubs make to nonprofit organizations in the county.

Last weekend, Bumbaugh received a letter from the Gaming Commission questioning $9,559 of the club's in-kind donations.

Among the contributions in doubt: nearly $5,000 to Clear Spring school groups, $150 in assistance to a family whose home burned down and $200 for the American Legion National flood relief fund.

"We want to retain our portion so we can help the people in our community," Bumbaugh said.

The law doesn't prevent clubs from making such donations using the rest of their tip jar profits, they just can't be counted in the clubs' in-kind contributions, said Commissioner James R. Wade.

The club brought in $173,533 from tip jars in the year ending June 30, Gaming Commission records show.

The in-kind rule does not apply to bars, which must give half of their profits to the Gaming Commission.

Gaming Commission President Sue Tuckwell has said the in-kind rule for clubs is a "nightmare" to regulate.

Bill Porter, the clubs' representative on the Gaming Commission, has proposed doing away with the in-kind rule and collecting a flat 15 percent fee from the clubs.

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