Tip jar changes debated

February 05, 1998|By GUY FLETCHER

Tip jar changes debated

ANNAPOLIS - Washington County fraternal clubs would maintain control of part of their charitable contributions raised from tip jar gaming under a package of gambling amendments approved Thursday by the county's legislative delegation.

But a bid to increase the clubs' total charitable contributions from 15 percent to 20 percent of their gross tip jar proceeds failed to pass during a two-hour delegation meeting marked by disagreement over county gaming law.

In the end, lawmakers said the amendments they approved will improve the current law.

"I think it's livable," said Del. Sue Hecht, D-Frederick/Washington, who proposed the 20 percent amendment.

"I think it's a pretty good bill," said Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, who opposed Hecht's amendment.

Under the current law, the 15 percent given by clubs to charity is evenly split between their direct giving and the amount turned over to the county Gaming Commission for distribution to fire and rescue companies, charities and other nonprofit groups.


Out of their share, the clubs are allowed to donate 5 percent of their total gross proceeds in the form of in-kind contributions.

The current tip jar law, which was passed two years ago in the legislature, calls for clubs to give 20 percent starting July 1, with the 5 percent in-kind contribution remaining.

But the Gaming Commission and other county officials said determining what was and what wasn't an in-kind contribution created an administrative nightmare that will cost the panel more than $10,000 this year for an accounting contract.

The Gaming Commission asked that the total remain at 15 percent, with no in-kind giving and all of the cash going to the Gaming Commission.

Hecht said her amendment was a compromise that would have removed the in-kind provision but kept the current law's move to 20 percent on July 1.

But Munson said a 20 percent cash contribution would create an economic hardship for clubs and remove flexibility to determine where at least some of their gaming money goes. He cited a case in which club members wanted to give money to help a child who suffered burns, something that is not considered legitimate charitable giving by the Gaming Commission.

"They should have been able to do that, because that's the essence of a club," Munson said.

But Hecht and Sen. John W. Derr, R-Frederick/Washington, said clubs can give over the required amount to anyone they want.

"If the clubs want to help a kid that's burned, why can't they do it out of the 85 percent they're keeping?" Derr asked.

Hecht and Derr voted for her plan, as did Del. Robert A. McKee, R-Washington, and Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, who chairs the delegation. Voting against were Munson, Del. D. Bruce Poole, D-Washington, Del. Louise V. Snodgrass, R-Frederick/Washington, and Del. J. Anita Stup, R-Frederick/Washington.

Because it was a tie vote, Hecht's amendment failed.

The delegation then unanimously passed a plan offered by Poole, which will keep the level of giving at 15 percent of tip jar proceeds, with a third of the money spent directly by the clubs.

By not getting control of the entire 15 percent, the Gaming Commission would likely end up with about $300,000 less to distribute than it would have under its plan.

But that is still more than it is currently getting, Munson said.

The delegation's moves must still be approved by the full General Assembly.

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