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Tip jars still a big business

November 11, 2002|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Tip jars are part of the daily routine of Hagerstown Elks member Dick Myers, who said he spends $25 to $50 seven days a week on the popular betting pastime.

Myers said that in recent years he has gradually increased the amount he gambles, partially as the result of some winnings.

Why does he play?

"Because of the element of surprise. You get lucky sometimes," he said.

His biggest win was $500, he said.

Besides, he joked, it helps pass the time. He used to talk to bartenders - who would serve as "an unofficial psychiatrist" - but they are now often too busy to talk much, he said.

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Myers and others spent more than $85 million on tip jars in Washington County during the last fiscal year - nearly $10 million more than in the year before, according to county gaming documents.

Myers said he prefers tip jars over the state lottery, as well as the slot machines he has played in Las Vegas and Atlantic City.

"This is easier and there are better odds," he said of the game, in which gamblers purchase $1 peel-off tickets in hopes of winning hundreds of dollars.

The tickets are contained in large jars, hence the name.

Myers is one of about 300 Hagerstown Elks members who plays tip jars at the group's facility, said Jack Tritsch, president of the Washington County Club Association and co-chairman of the Hagerstown Elks Finance Committee. There are approximately 2,400 Hagerstown Elks members, he said.

Gamblers spent $5.9 million at the Hagerstown Elks on 4,055 tip jars during the fiscal year that ended June 30, according to county records. After payouts and other expenses, the organization had proceeds of $493,961, records show.

Clubs give 15 percent of their profits to the Washington County Gaming Commission, which distributes money to nonprofit organizations and the Washington County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association, as mandated by state law.

Others surveyed at the Hagerstown Elks headquarters on Robinwood Drvive last week said they spend less money on tip jars than Myers does.

Tritsch, who spends about $20 to $25 a week, said while tip jars are not as exciting as slots for some players, they are an entertaining alternative.

Joni Eaton, an office clerk at Hagerstown Elks, said she enjoys tip jar gambling but limits her spending to $20 a week.

"It's fun. It is the suspense of having that 'holder.' It is a game of chance," she said.

Joyce Artz said she spends a limit of $20 a month gambling on tip jars.

"I know when to stop," she said. "I never win."

Asked why she plays, she said, "I guess the suspense, the hope, the desire. ... I think it is fun."

Artz said that although she never wins, she feels the money goes to a good cause because the Elks helps charities and some of the tip jar money goes to the Gaming Commission.

Dale Lambert said he has learned it does not make sense for him to gamble because, when he used to gamble, he always lost.

"I financed the games," he said.

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