Electronic tip jar machines outlawed

Washington County Commissioners take preemptive action

Washington County Commissioners take preemptive action

October 23, 2007|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

WASHINGTON COUNTY ? Electronic tip jar machines that do not use pre-printed tickets were outlawed Tuesday by the Washington County Commissioners.

Gaming Commission Director James B. Hovis asked the county commissioners to revise the county's tip jar regulations to prevent establishments from using the machines, which he said look and operate like slot machines.

"We want to ensure that the traditional method of tip jars will continue," Hovis said. "With these changes, it will be clear for everyone what is allowed and what is prohibited."

Hovis said because the machines print their own tickets and in many cases are controlled by a remote computer server, their legality is "questionable." He said gaming officials would have no way to audit or inspect the machines.


The changes will not affect electronic machines already used in the county that do nothing more than dispense pre-printed tickets, Hovis said.

The machines subject to the new regulations are not being used in Washington County, although manufacturers have expressed interest in bringing them to local establishments, Hovis said. He said the regulation changes are meant to prevent the use of the machines before they come into the county.

In July, Allegany County approved the use of tip jar machines that do not use preprinted tickets.

The decision provoked a disagreement between government attorneys there as to whether the devices constitute slot machines under Maryland law.

In addition to Allegany, St. Mary's, Calvert and Anne Arundel counties all recently have approved the machines.

In playing tip jars, gamblers buy tickets printed with a number. One of the tickets corresponds with a winning number sealed in the jar.

Not-for-profit clubs, bars, liquor stores and fire and rescue departments operate tip jars in Washington County.

The gaming commission regulates tip jars in the county, selling the jars to businesses and collecting a portion of the revenue. The commission distributes the revenue it collects to local charities.

More than 80,000 tip jars were sold in Washington County last year.

The gaming commission reported that gamblers spent about $71.7 million on tip jar games in fiscal year 2007.

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