Worry Slots May Hurt Fund-raising|
By Christine Hines
Capital News Service
Friday, March 7, 2003
ANNAPOLIS - Maryland's leading nonprofit group is worried that approving
slot machines for Maryland's race tracks may lower earnings for charities
who use gambling to raise money for their causes.
Peter Berns, executive director for the Maryland Association of Nonprofit
Organizations, said there is a concern that Gov. Robert Ehrlich's proposal
to install up to 11,500 video lottery terminals inside the state's race
tracks "will take all the money from charitable gaming."
But Berns stopped short of denouncing the slot machine proposal or asking
for a share of the anticipated slots profits on behalf of the 3,000-plus
"A lot of charities are uneasy to make a grab for a piece of the slots pie,
but we're encouraging the legislators to take a look at it."
Delegate Clarence Davis, D-Baltimore, said nonprofits certainly would not
see any slots profits, "other than to the communities that are impacted."
"If slots is passed, it's going to affect charitable gaming," Davis
admitted, "(but) the money can't go everywhere."
There may be some hope. Slots, the most hotly debated issue this legislative
session, is not a done deal and many interests are competing for a portion
of the profits.
"All the amendments to the governor's slot proposal are still very much on
the table," said Ehrlich spokeswoman Shareese DeLeaver.
Many charities including volunteer fire and rescue companies, rely heavily
on gaming profits.
Washington County brought in $85 million in fiscal 2002 from tip jar
gambling and a substantial portion is handed over to charities, said Daniel
DiVito, director of the county's gaming office.
In tip-jar games, a player buys a card or ticket and opens a sealed portion,
which reveals numbers or symbols. If those numbers or symbols match a card
on display at the purchase site, the player wins.
Washington County volunteer fire and rescue companies made $12 million in
2002 from tip jars sold and are permitted to keep all of their proceeds,
Private nonprofits, such as Moose lodges and veterans' clubs, kept 85
percent of the $6.7 million they raised. The remainder is designated for the
county's gaming fund. That gaming fund, which includes other gambling
revenues, then provided $1.4 million to other nonprofits and $1.3 million to
fire and rescue.
"This particular kind of gambling in this county has done a lot of good,"
Delegate Robert McKee, R-Washington, said slots should not be a cause of
worry for charitable gaming activities.
"If we were going to feel the impact of slots, we would have felt the impact
of slots in Charlestown, W.Va.," McKee said. Charlestown's gaming activities
include thoroughbred racing and slot machines.
L. Jason Baer, president of the Washington County Volunteer Fire and Rescue
Association, is less certain of that.
"We don't know what would happen if (Charlestown) wasn't there," he said.
Baer is also unsure of the impact slot machine approval will have on the
state's charity fund-raising, and he did not know if allowing slots would
affect fund-raising for the 27 fire and rescue companies in his association.
Legislators should provide a "guarantee" to protect nonprofits if the slots
damaged their earnings, he said.
"It's up to the politicians to shuffle the cards to figure out how it's
going to spill out," Baer said.
Renee Johnson, spokeswoman for the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of
Baltimore, declined to say whether there was a concern that slots would
affect member fund-raising.
"We don't use gaming primarily as a means for raising funds," she said.
Lawmakers are also looking at other charitable gaming laws.
Prince George's County legislators sponsored a bill to reintroduce gambling
as a fund-raising method for charities. Charitable gaming in the county was
shut down in 1997 by state law.
At least one lawmaker, Democratic Sen. Paul G. Pinsky, is opposed to his
county's sponsorship of the bill to bring it back, saying he was repelled by
the scandals and corruption resulting from Prince George's last experience
with charitable gaming.
"I believe it was a serious embarrassment to the county."
University of Maryland
Philip Merrill College of
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