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Law extends tip jar rules

October 01, 1998|By GUY FLETCHER

A relatively simple law that takes effect in Washington County today will ensure that millions of dollars raised from tip jar gambling proceeds will continue to flow to local nonprofit groups.

The law abolishes the tip jar regulations' July 1, 1999, expiration date, which county lawmakers in the Maryland General Assembly originally had included to guarantee the gambling law would be reviewed by the legislature.

But the law, originally passed by the legislature in 1995 and amended twice since, has been praised by some for regulating the multimillion-dollar tip jar industry and diverting much of its profits to charities, fire and rescue companies and other nonprofits.

Some have said the county's tip jar regulations can serve as a model for regulating local gambling throughout the state and that the expiration date is unnecessary.

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"I don't think there's any reason for a deadline to be hanging over our heads," said Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, chairman of the county's legislative delegation.

Since 1995, the Washington County Gaming Commission has distributed $4.2 million in tip jar proceeds to charity. Last year alone the agency distributed nearly $2 million, with about $800,000 going to fire and rescue companies.

"As you can tell, the community has definitely benefited from it," said Kathy Schilens, gaming commission director.

Schilens expects the annual gaming distributions to increase to $2.75 million this year because of another change to the tip jar law that increases donations made through the commission from private clubs and fraternal organizations.

Until July 1, clubs were required to give 15 percent of their gross gaming proceeds to charity, but only half had to be made directly through the gaming commission. Clubs were allowed to designate the other half directly to charity in the form or cash or in-kind services, such as the donation of room space.

Now the entire 15 percent must be made through the commission.

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