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Participation in tip jar gambling down

January distribution to Washington County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association will be $414,398.08

January 04, 2011|By HEATHER KEELS | heather.keels@herald-mail.com

Participation in tip jar gambling remained low in Washington County in the second half of 2010, resulting in almost 7 percent less gaming revenue destined for fire and rescue companies this January than this time last year, gaming officials said Tuesday.

The Washington County Gaming Commission announced that its January 2011 distribution to the Washington County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association will be $414,398.08. That represents 50 percent of the $828,796.16 collected by the Washington County Gaming Fund between July 1 and Dec. 31, 2010.

The gaming fund comes from the collection of a percentage of the profit from the sale of "tip jars," a form of paper gambling that involves peel-off tickets with numbers.

In accordance with state law, half of the gaming fund goes to the VFRA and the other half to charitable organizations. The distribution to charitable organizations is made once a year, but the VFRA distribution is made twice a year, in January and August.

The VFRA then divides that funding among the county's volunteer fire and rescue companies, which use it primarily to purchase equipment and to fund paid staff, VFRA President Glenn Fishack has said.

The January 2011 gaming fund distribution to the VFRA is down about 6.8 percent from the January 2010 distribution, which was $444,539.08, the gaming commission said in a press release.

"The economy just continues its downturn in regards to gaming, and that's reflected in the gaming fund revenues," Gaming Office Director James B. Hovis said.

VFRA Treasurer Richard Blair said he had advised the companies to prepare for gaming revenue to continue to drop this year.

"That part's a floating budget," Blair said. "The only thing we can do is estimate, and with the economy the way it is, the people that play those type of games aren't there. Those type of people don't have any money to spend because of gas prices being $3 a gallon."

Declining gaming revenue makes budgeting harder for the companies each year, Blair said.

"It's harder to make payments on their vehicles," he said.

Fishhack said on behalf of the association, he wanted to thank those people who have continued to support fire and rescue companies through tip jar gambling.

"The fire companies couldn't operate without the gaming money," Fishhack said.

Possible good news is that the drop in the gaming distribution from January 2010 to January 2011 was less steep than from January 2009 to January 2010, when the distribution amount dropped about 12 percent, Hovis said.

"We can hope" that this signals a trend preparing to turn back around, but "it's hard to guess in this economy," Hovis said.

The percentage of gross profits from tip jars that must be distributed to the gaming fund depends on the entity selling the tip jars. For-profit businesses must submit 50 percent of the gross profits, while nonprofit organizations must submit 15 percent of the gross profits. Fire and rescue companies and charitable organizations do not contribute to the fund.

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