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Judge says restaurant group can sell tip jars

June 17, 2004|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

The Washington County Restaurant and Beverage Association, which lost a fight over tip jar gambling regulations in the legislature earlier this year, has won the first round of a legal battle on the issue.

A state administrative law judge has ordered the Washington County Gaming Office to grant the association a one-year tip jar wholesaler's license, saying the license was improperly denied last year.

But the victory may be a hollow one because a new state law may trump the decision, one state lawmaker said.

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Washington County lawmakers got state legislation passed this year to block the association from becoming a wholesaler because its members sell the jars to the public.

Supporters of the law argued that keeping tip jar wholesalers and retailers separate prevents fraud in the system.

Delegation Chairman Del. Christopher B. Shank said he's received legal advice that the law will supersede the law judge's ruling if it's appealed to Washington County Circuit Court.

Shank, R-Washington, said the ruling shows how important it was to pass the law.

William Schildt, a Hagerstown lawyer representing the Gaming Office in the matter, did not return calls for comment.

Despite the fact the decision might be overturned, Association President Lou Thomas said he felt vindicated.

"We knew we were right or we wouldn't have filed the suit," Thomas said. "It shows what was going on all along."

Gaming Office Executive Director Dan DiVito should have granted the association a license in April 2003, Administrative Law Judge Susan Officer wrote in a June 7 opinion.

DiVito delayed the application until the Washington County Commissioners passed a new regulation to block the association, the opinion said.

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