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Gambling bill passes House panel

March 24, 1998|By GUY FLETCHER

Gambling bill passes House panel

ANNAPOLIS - Legislation that would more than double the amount of tip jar gambling money being distributed to charity through the Washington County Gaming Commission has received critical approval from a Maryland General Assembly committee.

The House Judiciary Committee voted to give a favorable report to the bill, which would require fraternal and social clubs to funnel all of their required charitable donations raised from tip jars through the Gaming Commission in cash.

Clubs now are required to donate 15 percent of their gross gaming proceeds to charity. But only half of the giving has to be made through the commission; the rest can be made directly to nonprofit groups in the form of cash and in-kind services, such as donating free room space.

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The legislation would keep required club giving at 15 percent, but eliminate direct cash and in-kind donations.

The Gaming Commission estimates it will distribute $1.1 million in tip jar proceeds to nonprofit organizations, fire and rescue companies and charities for the budget year that ends this June 30. The legislation would increase the agency's distributions next year to an estimated $2.45 million next year, it estimates.

Committee approval of the bill virtually guarantees its passage in the House of Delegates because of the General Assembly's strong-committee format and the courtesy it gives to bills that only affect specific jurisdictions.

Other changes in the bill include:




- A measure that would permit members of the county Gaming Commission to serve two two-year terms. Supporters of the amendment said the current limit of one two-year term causes too much turnover on the panel.

- An amendment that would allow members of the Gaming Commission to serve as officers and directors of nonprofit groups, but only if those groups do no apply for gaming funds.

The bill could be approved by the full House of Delegates this week, and would then go to the Senate for consideration.

"I'm prepared to defend it (in the Senate) and hopefully there will be very little oppostion," said Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington.

On Monday night, the House voted 125-6 to approve another bill that would repeal the gaming law's July 1, 1999, expiration date.

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