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05-02-03: Group learns of gambling updates
The Daily Standard

    MINSTER - A group of more than 250 veterans and fraternal organization members from the area met Thursday at the Minster Eagles Lodge to get an update on a new charitable gaming bill  restricting gaming fund raising and a proposed amendment to modify it.
    The collaboration between area organizations was started by Wapakoneta resident Mo Fisher several months ago. Since then, over 30 clubs in Auglaize, Mercer, Allen, Miami, Henry, Van Wert, Darke and Shelby counties have banded together representing Knights of Columbus, Eagles, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Amvets, Grand Lake Sports Club, American Legion and the Elks.
    The new legislation governing charitable gaming was aimed at closing store front bingo parlors masking as charitable organizations and being run for profit. Most of the targeted games are in urban areas. However, the legislation also legislates clubs who raise money though such games.
    While the existing legislation bans gambling practices in the clubs, a proposed amendment to be attached to the budget bill will permit the clubs to have gambling for charitable purposes.
    "It was just a way of legalizing something that they had done illegally," said Senator John Husted (R-Kettering), who proposed the bill. "We wanted to close down the parlors, but allow these organizations to continue their charitable work."
    In previous law, organizations could not host charitable gaming unless 100 percent of profits were given to charities. The new law says that 70 percent of money raised has to go to 501(C)3 charitable organizations, and 30 percent can be kept. The coalition is pushing for changes that would reverse that order, allowing groups to keep 70 percent and give 30 percent to charities.
    The group meeting Thursday also had asked that some of the money be permitted to be given to groups that are not 501(C)3, such as youth sports organizations and fire departments. The groups involved have donated to such organizations in the past.
    Fisher, along with 78th District state representative Derrick Seaver (D-Minster) and, Cory Noonan, the aide for 77th district representative Keith Faber (R-Celina), told the crowd that all of the changes seem to be working out with the exception of the 70-30 split of keeping money raised.
    "We're looking at a 50-50 split of the money raised," Seaver said. "I know you would want more, but it is a political world we're fighting up there. We're trying to get this pushed through."
    Other details being discussed by legislators, according to Fisher, are allowing gaming to go on all seven days for 14 hours a day instead of eight hours for five days and being able to operate gambling while holding a liquor license.
    The budget bill must be passed by July 1 according to state law, Seaver said. While several organizations said not operating charitable gaming is hurting funding for their organizations, Fisher said each club needs to weigh the situation individually as far as continuing the practice under current legislation.
    "Everyone needs to make their own decision based on what his organization needs to do," Fisher said.
    Fisher told the group that  while it will help clubs to legalize gaming, bookkeeping will be more of a bother.
    "We will have to keep better books," Fisher said. "We will have accountability that we didn't have before. You will have to account for every ticket sold."
    Fisher added that licensing fee structures for gaming are also being discussed. With the new legislation, all clubs will be required to pay a $5,000 licensing fee. A sliding scale which will benefit smaller clubs is being discussed.
    Two more meetings have been scheduled for July 18 and July 30, both at 7:30 p.m., to discuss updates on the bill.


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