Gambling bill would add to charity

February 12, 1998|By GUY FLETCHER

Gambling bill would add to charity

ANNAPOLIS - A last-minute amendment to Washington County's tip jar gambling law could mean an additional $590,000 next year to charities funded through the county Gaming Commission.

Just minutes before the House of Delegate's filing deadline of 5 p.m. Thursday, the county's delegation filed legislation that would require fraternal clubs to funnel all of their required charitable giving through the gaming panel.

"It makes it easier for everybody. It makes it easier for the clubs and it makes it easier for the Gaming Commission," said Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, chairman of the county delegation.


But Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, said clubs should have the ability to decide if they want to retain control over some of their giving. He and Del. D. Bruce Poole, D-Washington, opposed the amendment in a 6-2 written vote taken in the afternoon.

"I wanted to give (the clubs) choice ... but that doesn't change my support for the bill," he said.

Clubs currently give 15 percent of their gross gaming proceeds to charity. Half of that goes to the Gaming Commission, which distributes the money to charities, fire and rescue companies and other nonprofit organizations in the county. The clubs distribute the other half through direct cash contributions and in-kind services.

The Gaming Commission estimates that it will distribute $1.86 million from nonprofit club and private tavern gaming proceeds by June 30, the end of the present budget year.

The current law would increase club giving to 20 percent on July 1, with the same 50-50 split in charitable distributions.

Last week, lawmakers approved a measure that would hold charitable contributions from fraternal and social clubs at the present 15 percent of their tip jar proceeds. The amendment would eliminate in-kind contributions, but would allow the clubs to make direct cash donations of up to 5 percent of their proceeds.

The remaining 10 percent of club money directed to the Gaming Commission, plus the money raised at private bars, would bring in an estimated $2.15 million to the agency next year.

But support had been building in the delegation to funnel all contributions through the Gaming Commission. The idea has the support of the Gaming Commission and the Washington County Commissioners.

A flat 15 percent contribution to the Gaming Commission would increase the agency's charitable distributions next year to an estimated $2.45 million.

Eliminating direct giving by the clubs also reduces paperwork and other administrative duties.

"It's less burdensome. It's a no-hassle way to do business for both the clubs and the Gaming Commission," said Del. Robert A. McKee, R-Washington.

Bill Porter, the clubs' representative on the Gaming Commission, agreed.

"It's going to make it a lot easier," he said.

There was some urgency to file the amendment by Thursday, the deadline for filing legislation, so it would be guaranteed a committee hearing. The legislation could be amended in committee or on the floor of the House or Senate before the legislative session ends April 13.

The delegation last month gave its approval to what many consider the most important amendment - removing the law's "sunset" provision, under which the gaming legislation would expire on July 1, 1999.

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

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