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Small Games of Chance Clarification Bill Heads to Senate, Pickett Says
HARRISBURG – Local nonprofit organizations that are seeking clarity and flexibility in their efforts to raise funds for their charitable endeavors through small games of chance are one step closer to that goal, thanks to legislation that cleared the House of Representatives on Wednesday, said Rep. Tina Pickett (R-Bradford/Sullivan/Susquehanna), who co-sponsored the measure.

“The laws affecting small games of chance are complex, and until last year, were antiquated and did not keep pace with inflation or technology,” said Pickett, who helped spearhead the new changes through her chairmanship of the House Gaming Oversight Committee. “Our goal with any law that regulates small games of chance is to make sure it is reasonable and accountable. I am hopeful that with the additional clarifications and flexibilities we’re including in this new legislation, our nonprofit organizations and clubs will be able to continue their charitable works in our communities.

Under House Bill 290, the definition of a “public interest” purpose would be clarified so that an entity operating solely in the public interest – such as a volunteer fire company – has the ability to retain the money for its own charitable purposes. A public interest purpose would also include historic preservation, conservation, athletic endeavors and sportsmen’s safety and education.

The legislation also adds selective raffles, like Chinese auctions; quarter auctions; race night events; poker runs; and vertical wheels as permissible games of chance. Members of an organization will also be allowed to play social card games at a licensed premise with certain restrictions on how the games are played. Likewise, card game tournaments at a licensed premise would be permitted up to five times per year and not more than one game per week and with limited prizes.

Another change would allow for two licenses based on an organization’s proceeds. Specifically, an organization taking in less than $40,000 a year in small games proceeds will pay $25 for its license. This license will allow them to operate all the current small games of chance, and also exempt them from annual reporting, background checks and separate bank accounts for their proceeds. An organization making more than $40,000 a year in proceeds will pay the current license fee of $100 for a license, which will allow them to operate all the current small games of chance. However, they will be required to report annually, submit to background checks and keep separate bank accounts for their proceeds.

“The organizations in our communities that operate small games of chance do so as a way to raise necessary money for their charitable works,” Pickett said. “Our intent with this legislation is not to expand gambling but to bring into law a number of the games that are already being played. These clubs want to follow the letter of the law and continue their good works, and state government should strive to reach the balance between regulation and accountability.”

Club licensees -- those organizations with a liquor license -- may retain the first $40,000 in small games of chance proceeds for their own use. Once the $40,000 has been retained by the organization, the current 70 percent/30 percent split of proceeds between public interest purposes and general operating expenses begins.

Additional changes are also being sought to help charities better manage other requirements in the 2012 update. The legislation would clarify when proceeds must be spent for public interest – from the current calendar year – to 12 months from when the proceeds were received. This will help organizations that collect small games proceeds during the latter half of the year for public interest projects that may take place during the next calendar year.

Other changes include clarifying that Liquor Control Enforcement (LCE) does not have enforcement powers over small games of chance violations with organizations that solely have a special occasion permit under the Liquor Code. LCE would retain enforcement power over any Liquor Code violations of these organizations.

The legislation now heads to the Senate for consideration.

Representative Tina Pickett
110th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Jennifer Keaton
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