The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

November 1, 2013

Don't handcuff vets organizations | Keep small games of chance out of bars

The Tribune-Democrat

JOHNSTOWN — A guy walks into a bar, sits down and plays a small game of chance.

Think it’s a joke? For organizations like the Veterans of Foreign Wars, it’s not.

John Getz, the state adjutant for the VFW, estimates that if Pennsylvania allows bars to begin offering paper-based small games of chance, 300 of the 480 VFW posts in the state could close.

That’s a disturbing scenario.

As it now stands, only social clubs and veterans clubs like the VFW and the American Legion are allowed to offer such games. But the issue could be on the table by the state House when lawmakers return this month. The Senate already has approved the measure.

Senators also removed language in the proposal that would have allowed the clubs to keep the first $40,000 of gaming revenue.

Proponents of the plan say that allowing bars to get in on the action would help small “mom and

pop” bars stay in business and that it would bring in $150 million more in taxes to the state.

While that money certainly would help fill Pennsylvania’s coffers, it’s not worth doing it if it comes at the expense of our veterans.

State Rep. Kurt Masser, R-Northumberland, is one of those who supports the plan. Of course, we’re a bit skeptical about Masser’s motives, since he just so happens to own a bar.

“This will just give my (customers) the same opportunity,” Masser told John Finnerty, who is CNHI’s state reporter.

We are great proponents of small-business owners, but we believe that there are many other ways that bar owners can attract clientele without pulling the rug out from under VFW and American Legion clubs.

That money is put to good use. James Grossman, commander of the Farrell VFW in Mercer County, said his members vote each month on how to use their game revenue to help their neighbors.

“(The proposed bill) is not to our benefit,” he said, “which means it’s not a benefit to the community.”

We agree. And that’s no joke.