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Tip jar bill was not about accountability

April 25, 2004|by Louis Thomas

This letter is in reference to the coverage of House Bill 1022 and Senate Bill 778 to make changes to the existing gaming law. It is time all facts are reported.

The Washington County Restaurant and Beverage Association (WCRBA) filed an application for a wholesalers tip jar license in April 2003 with the Washington County Gaming Commission. The WCRBA met all requirements for a license. Since no action was taken by the gaming commission by August, a Mandamus complaint was filed to force the commission to issue a license.

At that time, the county commissioners decided to change the rules and regulations without authority in an attempt to stop WCRBA from becoming a wholesaler. They changed the regulations that the association could not have more than 50 percent of its members as operators.

Since WCRBA had applied for a license before the "new regulations" and did not submit a membership list, the application was denied. An appeal was filed in administrative court and the case was heard on Feb. 27; WCRBA is presently awaiting the administrative judge's ruling.

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The Washington County Delegation did not want to allow the judicial process to take its course. They submitted two bills to change the law to stop one local business from becoming a wholesaler. Their proposed bills state that a business cannot have even one member as an operator.

They say it is to protect the integrity and accountability of the law. The only thing their new laws will accomplish is discrimination against one business. Accountability is already in the law. The operator purchases tip jars from the wholesaler, paying all profits up front. The wholesaler affixes a county sticker for tracking purposes. The wholesaler is then responsible to deposit the monies with the gaming commission. The wholesaler files monthly reports including the county sticker number, description of the jar, winning holder, etc., and the operator files quarterly reports with the same information.

The gaming commission can compare the two reports to ensure that all jars are accounted for. If they are not, an investigation or audit should be launched.

From a recent audit, it was reported that a current wholesaler was short by more than $90,000. At the senate hearing, Washington County Gaming Commission Administrator Danny DiVito testified that the amount is now down to 150 jars. Sounds like a lot to me, since a tip jar's proceeds can range from $100-$200 per jar depending on the size and type of jar. That same wholesaler has given recent political contributions to members of the Washington County Delegation and hired a lobbyist to aid in the passage of House Bill 1022 and Senate Bill 778!

In 1995, the WCRBA approached the legislature to file a gaming bill (which is the current law). When the bill was finally voted on in the delegation, Del. John Donoghue was the only Washington County resident legislator to vote for the bill. The Frederick County legislators supported the bill also, therefore, it passed.

Delegate Donoghue has taken unnecessary shots from his peers and the newspaper for his stand on fairness. Delegate Donoghue is the main reason charities have received millions of dollars from gaming proceeds. Washington County residents and businesses should be thankful to have Del. John Donoghue looking out for their best interests.

The people supporting passage of House Bill 1022 and Senate Bill 778 are the same people who opposed the original law in 1995. This is not about accountability and integrity, it is about revenge.




Louis Thomas is president of the Washington County Restaurant and Beverage Association.

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