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Pa. organizations struggle to make sense of revised state gaming law

October 10, 2012|By ROXANN MILLER | roxann.miller@herald-mail.com
  • Todd Merlina, enforcement officer supervisor with the Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement, discusses revisions to state gaming laws Tuesday with representatives of social clubs, veterans groups and nonprofit organizations meeting at the Franklin Fire Company in Chambersburg.
Photo by Roxann Miller

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — Several hundred members of area social clubs, veterans groups and nonprofit organizations flocked to the Franklin Fire Company in Chambersburg on Tuesday night hoping to make sense of a revised state gaming law.

The Small Games of Chance seminar, hosted by the Franklin Fire Co., was intended to clear up confusion about the recording and reporting process of HB 169, officially known as Act 2 of 2012.

Todd Merlina, enforcement officer supervisor with the Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement, told the crowd that the law is an improvement to the outdated small games of chance law from 1988.

Using a lengthy PowerPoint presentation, Merlina explained the specifics of the law, including record keeping, prize limits, use of proceeds and the types of licenses.

“The new law doesn’t necessary hurt you. It helps you,” he said.

The law increased the individual price limit from $500 to $1,000, the weekly price limit from $5,000 to $25,000 and the monthly prize limit for raffles from $5,000  $10,000, he said.

The types of gambling authorized by the act are punchboards, pull-tabs, raffles (including special permit-raffles), daily drawings and weekly drawings.

Allan Pomeroy with a Marine Corps veterans organization in Chambersburg, Pa., said he had all kinds of questions.

“We’re totally confused what we are, and are not allowed to do,” he said several hours into Merlina’s presentation.

While his organization doesn’t depend heavily on small games of chance to survive, he said the funds help with expenses and community contributions.

“We have to figure out what recording we have to do, and we have to file all the paperwork right,” he said.

Merlina assured those present that Franklin County was not being singled out by law enforcement for violating the small games of chance law.

In January, the Eagles Club in Waynesboro, Pa., was closed through March because of gaming violations.

Merlina said he was asked by someone at the seminar, “How come Franklin County has been pummeled by law enforcement for doing something that everybody does?”

He said small games of chance are very prevalent in Franklin, Adams and York counties.

“So don’t think you’re being picked on. It’s just that you’re knowledgeable of what’s going on around you and when we visit and find violations you’re going to probably get cited,” he said.

“Do not buy a game on the Internet,” Merlina said.

Games must be approved by the Department of Revenue, he said.

Like Pomeroy, many of those on hand were concerned about having their licenses revoked if they didn’t file their paperwork properly.

“There is stuff he said tonight that I didn’t even know,” Pomeroy said. “I’m totally baffled on a lot of stuff — now we have to do more investigating and reading and making sure we’re doing what we’re supposed to do.”

“I think it’s the reporting thing that’s really getting to people,” said Vernell Perry, who is with an area women’s group. “There’s always been a requirement to report, but now you have to report or you’re not going to get your license renewed next year,” she said.

Scott Bradnick from the New Franklin Fire Co. said he’s ahead of the curve.

“We just want to make sure we’re doing everything correct for the new small games of chance law,” he said.

But, he said the fire company put a lot of changes into place in anticipation of the revised law.

“This is the first change since 1988, so we just want to make sure we’re obeying the law,” he said.

He said the fire company depends heavily on money from small games of chance to operate.

“We made a lot of changes ourselves when the law came out. So I think we’re pretty much to the letter of the law right now,” he said.

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