Inspections of tip-jar sellers to be more routine

September 07, 2004|by SCOTT BUTKI

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Inspections of places in Washington County selling tip jars will be less sporadic in the future now that the Washington County Gaming Office has hired its own inspector, director Dan DiVito said last week.

This will provide tip jar operators more incentive to make sure they are following tip jar rules, he said.

"If they are thinking about cutting a corner, they may want to think twice about it," DiVito said.

The unannounced visits from new inspector Jim Hovis, 39, of Smithsburg, might come at any hour of the day, DiVito said.

Since the tip jar regulations went into effect in 1996, the Gaming Office has relied on local law enforcement to go to businesses and other places selling them to make sure they were following the rules, DiVito said.


While such routine inspections did occur, they were not given a high priority by law enforcement and understandably so, DiVito said. Tip jars also are not the police officers' area of expertise, he said.

Fines from citations go into the Gaming Office budget, DiVito said.

Hovis previously worked as a criminal investigator for the Maryland State Police in Allegany County.

He started his duties on Aug. 9 and has performed 35 inspections so far. The inspections include ensuring that all tip jars are properly labeled and that the serial numbers match.

Some of the operators use his visits to get clarification about what to do in certain circumstances, Hovis said.

While he does not play tip jars, he is familiar with the laws governing them and is learning more all the time, Hovis said.

Hovis plans to perform inspections at each of the 117 licensed tip-jar establishments - including all bars, stores and fire halls - at least four times a year, for a total of about 470 a year.

Last year, about 120 inspections were performed, DiVito said.

Additionally, Hovis said he will respond to complaints people file against businesses regarding tip-jar sales.

As part of his job, he also inspects businesses with "amusement devices" - pinball machines and coin-operated arcade games - to make sure they are paying the county's amusement tax, Hovis said.

Anyone with complaints regarding tip-jar sales or illegal gambling, including illegal poker machines, may call Hovis at the Gaming Office at 240-313-2040.

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