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Politics & Government

Small Reforms to Small Games of Chance Laws

Legislation to ease restrictions on small games of chance in Pennsylvania is moving through the General Assembly.  By a vote of 46-3, the state Senate has approved a bill to reform state law to legalize 50/50 drawings.

Although State Senators Richard Kasunic (D-Fayette) and Tim Solobay (D-Washington) voted for the reform, they believe not enough was done to protect and accommodate non-profit volunteer organizations.

"This amended bill is an improvement, but it should have included more common sense changes aimed at simplifying the law and protecting community groups from overzealous enforcement actions," Kasunic said.

Solobay said many groups rely on games such as Chinese auctions, coin auctions, and night at the races to raise funds for their communities and organizational needs.

“They use that as a means for them to raise funds for whatever the particular organizational needs, that they are, booster clubs do things for their sports teams, fire departments, churches do things for their operational things, clubs and organizations such as that that also have liquor licenses,” Solobay said.

Both senators attempted to waive annual reporting and background check requirements for charitable organizations with small game proceeds of $100,000 or less. However, the majority Republicans set the limit at $2,500.

Solobay said part of the problem is the amount of confusion surrounding how the games are conducted and reported back to the state.

“There was no way of being able to audit back how the monies came in and how the prizes were awarded if it was a non-audible-type gaming thing. They were opposed to it,” Solobay said.  Additional amendments the two senators proposed were also rejected.

The measure now goes to the House.  If that chamber does not take action, a small games of chance reform bill would have to be re-introduced in the new legislative session that starts in January.

“If we have a chance to fix all of these things that have been a problem, I’d much sooner do that in one big swoop than trying to piecemeal it over changing one or two things again and then six months later having to come back and change it again,” Solobay said.

He added that the changes are needed to legitimize games most people assumed were already legal.