Last updated: December 30. 2013 5:44PM - 2154 Views
BILL O’BOYLE boboyle@civitasmedia.com

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And — they’re on!

Act 92, which allows organizations to conduct small games of chance known as “pools” and “night at the races” games — takes effect Jan. 27 and organizations, such as churches, will once again be able to hold vital fundraising events.

The familiar and always successful “Night at the Races” fundraisers will be allowed under the terms of the new legislation.

State Sen. John Blake, D-Archbald, voted for the legislation that reforms Pennsylvania’s Small Games of Chance Law.

“It was a necessary update that will assist non-profit service groups in raising needed funds,” Blake said. “It represents a necessary compromise that will help local volunteer organizations that are doing good work for our communities”

The Senate approved House Bill 290 and House Bill 1098 after the bills were amended from earlier versions that the Senate passed in October. The governor signed it into law, becoming Act 92 of 2013.

Blake said the legislation that the governor signed eliminates the reporting requirements for volunteer organizations without a liquor license. He said for those organizations with a liquor license that raise less than $20,000 per year from small games, there will also be no annual reporting requirement.

Blake said many local organizations complained that the previous reporting requirements, which were enacted last year, were cumbersome, confusing and imposed administrative hardship.

“They actually discouraged local fundraising in part due to the difficulty in managing prescribed record-keeping requirements,” he said.

Blake said he heard from organizations in his district — fire departments, veterans’ groups and other charitable organizations and church groups — that rely upon games of chance to raise needed funds. They all told him that the previous requirements were a burden.

“They prohibited them from doing some of the fund raising activities they had been doing for years in their communities,” Blake said. “The changes agreed to in the more recent legislation gives greater clarity to these service groups and it relieves some of the prior reporting burdens while helping them sustain their missions and their valuable work.”

Blake said the law increases prize limits and expands the types of games allowed to include popular games such as raffle auctions — commonly referred to as bashes or silent auctions — as well as small betting pools and “Night at the Races” events.

Additionally, Blake said the legislation allows clubs to keep more of the revenue they raise from small games to help with expenses and it expands the type of spending that is eligible, allowing them to put funds where they are needed most.

Blake proposed an amendment in the Senate Appropriations Committee that would have directed additional revenue raised from the expanded gaming activities to the state Lottery Fund. His amendment was defeated in committee.

“The intention of my amendment was to further capitalize the Lottery Fund so it could provide additional property tax relief to our seniors,” Blake said. “Again, that amendment failed in the Senate Appropriations Committee — I believe on a party line vote — and, as such, it was not included in the final version of the small games of chance bill.”

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