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Gospel of gambling

Church uses tip jars to help fund programs

Church uses tip jars to help fund programs

October 19, 2006|by TARA REILLY

WASHINGTON COUNTY - St. Thomas' Episcopal Church doesn't tally the same kind of numbers as some taverns or clubs through the sale of tip jars.

But its modest profit still allows the Hancock church to reach out to those in need.

St. Thomas' sold $3,365 in tip jars in fiscal year 2006, resulting in a profit of $778. That was among the lowest profit on a lengthy list of establishments, clubs and organizations that sell tip jars.

Tip jars are part of the church's occasional basket bingo events.

The church uses some of the money for outreach programs such as Christmas for Others, which includes a party and gifts for less fortunate families, said the Rev. Allan Weatherholt, the church's rector.

"It really does help the fundraising effort," Weatherholt said. "It's obviously very helpful to the church's income."

For the county as a whole, tip jar gambling remains a thriving business.

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Clubs, taverns, liquor stores and nonprofit groups sold $72.9 million in tip jars in fiscal year 2006, resulting in a gross profit of $12.4 million. In fiscal year 2005, $71 million in tip jars was sold with a gross profit of $12.5 million.

The amount the clubs, businesses and nonprofits keep ends up being less than the gross profit, because state law requires a contribution to the county's gaming fund. The groups and businesses must also pay for the jars.

Nonprofits contribute 15 percent of the gross profit to the gaming fund, and establishments such as taverns and liquor stores contribute 50 percent, Gaming Director James B. Hovis said.

The county distributes the gaming fund to local nonprofit groups. In fiscal year 2006, the amount distributed was $2.88 million. Of that amount, half went to the Washington County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association, and the remaining money went to 83 charitable organizations.

The county is required by state law to give half of the gaming fund to the Fire and Rescue Association.

Hovis said the gaming fund was down 4 percent compared with last fiscal year, when the Gaming Commission distributed a little more than $3 million.

The slight downturn could be a result of a higher cost of living, he said.

Since the county's gaming program began in 1995, the Gaming Commission has distributed more than $31.5 million to charitable organizations, Hovis said.

Without tip jars, the Williamsport Moose Lodge 2462 would have a hard time making ends meet, Administrator Mike Little said.

The lodge sold $837,906 in tip jars in fiscal year 2006, resulting in a gross profit of $93,201.

Of that, the club paid 15 percent to the county's Gaming Fund and was allowed to keep what remained.

The lodge uses the money for repairs and other expenses.

"It helps us run the lodge," Little said. "If we didn't sell these, we wouldn't make it."

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