Today I would like to discuss the one that did gain support and was adopted, concerning the Small Games of Chance Bill (HB 290). In the presented resolution which I authored, I call for the elimination of the Aggregate Prize Limits which are currently detrimental to the service clubs and the community. At this time, many of our area clubs such as the Eagles, the Moose, the Home Associations, the Republican Club and others have experienced fines and suspensions, and have had to close their doors for months at a time, because they exceeded the current prize limits of $35,000 a week. When they are closed by the PLCB for these suspensions, it is the community that suffers.
When these clubs and fire companies like SAVES here in McSherrystown sell "jars", have raffles or bingo, they have a specific amount of money they pay to the winner. The rest of the money is collected and 70% of these funds (after the first $40,000, which can be used to cover operational expenses) go straight back into the community through documented charitable donations. McSherrystown has benefited from this when the Police Department received funds for the new speed sign, which helps alert drivers that they are exceeding the speed limit and raises awareness to safety in school zones and other parts of town. Delone Catholic High School received a majority of the funds needed for their new scoreboard from such funds, which are generated by people in the community participating in the small games of chance. SAVES, being a community organization, is allowed to raise funds for their efforts by having small games of chance at their functions. Over half of their funding comes from such activities, however, they are limited by the same laws as the service organizations. The fundings generated by these small games of chance have helped the community without burdening the local government budgets or pulling from the taxpayers.
When people in the community support these efforts by patronizing such events, it is my opinion that it is their right to spend their money where they want, knowing that it is directly helping the local community and infrastructure. It is beyond the proper powers of our government to tell these people that they cannot do so, or to limit their participation by setting limits on the organizations. By removing the prize limits, clubs and organizations would be able to generate more funds for charitable endeavors...can anyone explain to me why this would not be a good thing? In a time when government funds are scarce and resources are thin from a struggling economy, it makes sense to allow those in the community to support their own purposes and interests by pooling their money together. If they choose to do so in a gaming fashion, so be it.
Are we limiting the amount of profits that can be generated by big-business casinos in this state? It is estimated that casinos generate over $1.3 billion in tax revenues a year in Pennsylvania (http://www.boston.com/news/politics/articles/2011/09/25/for_massachusetts_lessons_in_pennsylvanias_casino_experience/). The state legislation has backed and even safe-guarded the interests of the casinos for this very reason. I will say that, when properly utilized as they are supposed to be, these funds do a great service to the residents of our state. However, this is largely due to the fact that the state legislation has the final say over the allocation of these resources, which I will comment, has NOT always gone towards the endeavors for which they were originally intended. The reason we have such an issue with the small games of chance limits is obvious...the casinos want that revenue for their own profit and the state wants control over the taxes produced when the casinos get those profits. When a service organization is allowed to allocate their own funds to the community, it takes the power over that money out of the hands of the state. Therefore, limits and suspensions create opportunities to siphon some of the funds that would be kept here in our area to fund our projects and infrastructure, and they instead go to line the casino owners' pockets and to fill the state coffers, which we then have to petition the state for our share.
I want to thank the McSherrystown Borough Council for supporting my legislation, which passed by a vote of 6-1. I would also like to extend my appreciate to the Council of Fairfield, who had passed both of my resolutions at their March meeting. As the Legislative Committee Chairman for the Adams County Boroughs Association, I will be calling for a vote on these resolutions at the upcoming meeting in May. If adopted, I will be forwarding them to the State Congress and the Pennsylvania State Boroughs Association for consideration. It is my hope that we will gain enough support for the change I have proposed to eliminate the aggregate prize limits, and allow local citizens the ability to contribute to their community through small games of chance without restriction.
David "Scotty" Bolton
McSherrystown Borough Councilman and citizen