The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Editorials

September 1, 2013

Revisiting small games of chance law

— We suspect a lot of misinformation has surrounded the state’s 2012 revisions to its small games of chance law. What we know for certain is that a lot of community fire companies and sports booster, social and sportsmen’s clubs are very concerned over what they perceive those revisions could mean to their futures.

Fortunately, some members of the state House and Senate are listening to those concerns and are carrying them back to Harrisburg, along with proposed changes.

We believe those changes need to come sooner rather than later.

Under the 2012 adjustments, local nonprofits are required to spend 70 percent of gambling revenue on efforts promoting public interest rather than reinvesting the money in their organizations.

What that means, for example, is that a sportsmen’s club bringing in $1,000 profit on a gun-chance ticket would be required to relinquish $700 of that profit.

That stipulation alone would have devastating effects for groups that now survive on shoestring budgets and funding. Many question how they will be able to pay on mortgages, fulfill property-tax obligations and take on growing utility bills.

Those are legitimate concerns. Many would be unable to survive.

And what some people might not realize is that most for these clubs and organizations already are giving back plenty to their communities in education programs, scholarships and entertainment and social opportunities. 

“I can’t imagine how a small community would function without (those organizations),” Sunbury Mayor David Persing told CNHI state reporter John Finnerty. “You need them.”

Absolutely. They add to our quality of life.

And don’t get us wrong. We’re not suggesting a free rein on gambling. There needs to be rules and there needs to be oversight.

We believe, though, that these organizations are being hit with stricter rules and regulations aimed at protecting the state’s own gaming interests, specifically casinos and the lottery.

To the state’s credit, it delayed full implementation of the 2012 rules changes while it held a number of seminars to educate the leaders of community groups.

Additional efforts should be made to explain those rules and to help groups understand what is currently being proposed.

As explained by Finnerty last week, a bill aimed at making changes to the 2012 revisions was approved in the House earlier this year, but stalled in the Senate.

Indications are the Senate will also be on board when it reconvenes this fall. We hope so.

State Rep. Michele Brooks of Crawford County, a prime sponsor of the bill to amend the 2012 revision, said, “This bill is intended to give (these groups) the tools they need to do the wonderful things they do for the community.”

We can’t imagine any legislator being against that.

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