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Washington County gaming fund had 5.6% less to donate in fiscal 2011

Fund totaled $1.897 million for year that ended June 30, down from $2.01 million

August 09, 2011|By HEATHER KEELS | heather.keels@herald-mail.com
  • Washington County Gaming Office Director Jim Hovis, left, and Washington County Gaming Commission members Michael Hansen and Jan Cirincione talk Tuesday morning after presenting the group's report to the Washington County Board of Commissioners.
By Kevin G. Gilbert, Staff Photographer

As charitable gaming continues to decline, the Washington County Gaming Commission had nearly 6 percent less funding to distribute to volunteer fire and rescue companies and charitable organizations this year than last, gaming officials announced Tuesday.

The commission said the gaming fund total for fiscal 2011, which ended June 30, was $1,897,369.42 — down 5.61 percent compared to the fiscal 2010 total of $2,010,106.75.

Gaming fund revenue comes from tip jars — a form of gambling in which players buy sealed tickets with numbers inside — at clubs, restaurants, bars, liquor stores and other businesses throughout the county.

Under state law, half of that total goes to the Washington County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association to support fire and rescue companies. The other half is distributed to local charities selected through an application process.

This year, the gaming commission received 127 applications from 107 charitable organizations requesting a total of about $2.7 million, Gaming Commission Chairman Michael Hansen said.

The commission was able to provide full or partial funding to 98 of those organizations, he said.

Most received $10,000 or less, but a few received higher awards.

The Community Free Clinic of Washington County received $175,000, the largest award, followed by REACH Caregivers, which received $70,000 and the Friends of Safe Place Child Advocacy Center, which received $64,740.

The Community Free Clinic offers no-cost health care to Washington County residents without health insurance. Robin E. Roberson, the free clinic's executive director, said the gaming funds are a "lifeline" for the clinic and its patients in a time when donations to nonprofits are down.

"Without the free clinic, a large majority of our patients would be very hard-pressed to be able to seek health care and, in many instances, would end up in the hospital emergency room, being admitted, or even in some cases, probably, lives would be lost because patients would not have access to health care," Roberson said.

Though the free clinic was granted its full funding request, many others had to settle for less than they requested.

Melanie Davis, executive director of Holly Place, a small assisted-living facility, said she requested $100,000 but received $8,000, down from $10,000 last year.

"We're going to have to go out and pound the pavement for a whole lot more money to be able to keep our doors open," she said.

Cathy Hanson, program coordinator for the Alzheimer's Association, said she will be applying for grants and other funding to make up for a gaming fund distribution that was smaller than she had hoped.

The association was awarded $5,000 from the Gaming Fund this year, down from $12,000 last year.

Unless the association can make up the difference from other sources, it will have to cut back drastically the number of Washington County families that receive support services for family members with Alzheimer's, Hanson said.

"While we're disappointed, we know the economic climate is as such," she said.

Hagerstown Citizens on Patrol was among the organizations that received none of the funding requested from the gaming distribution.

Philip Nussear, the group's vice president, said the organization had hoped to use gaming funds to add one or two new patrol cars, replacing one that was recently vandalized. Trained citizens use the cars to patrol their communities as "eyes and ears" for law enforcement, he said.

"It's a real blow," he said of being passed over this year.

Hansen, who chairs the seven-member gaming commission, said the commission's failure to fund an organization or decision to partially fund a request is not a negative reflection on that organization.

"As in the past, the individuals representing requesting charities demonstrated a passion and dedication for their individual purposes that made the allocation of the funds a difficult process," he said.

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