Updated Small Games of Chance Act brings new requirements
Representatives from area fire departments and independent clubs and the public attended an information meeting Thursday where they were introduced to updates made to the Small Games of Chance Act.
“Everything you could do before, you can do now,” explained Sgt. James Jones, with the Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement.
The updated act was signed into law by Gov. Tom Corbett on Feb. 2.
While many see the law containing sweeping changes to small games of chance held as fundraisers for fire departments, clubs and organizations, Jones said the law was originally passed in 1988 and not many of the details have changed.
He said the law needed to be updated because of cases in the state where hundreds of thousands of dollars went missing from organizations after games of chance.
“We know who stole it, but we couldn't prove it because there were no records,” Jones said. He said 95 percent of the entities that hold small games of chance run operations honestly and unknowingly execute the procedures the wrong way. The other five percent are the ones who know what they're doing is illegal and continue to do it.
The permitted games of chance include punch boards, pull-tabs, raffles (including lotteries), daily drawings and weekly drawings.
The game Bingo falls into a different law altogether.
Games of chance considered to be illegal include Texas Hold ‘em tournaments, night at the races, 50/50 drawings, casino nights, sporting pools, Chinese auctions, vertical wheel or “chuck-a-luck” wheel and video gambling devices.
One of the items in the act that generated the most outrage from the crowd gathered inside the Frazier High School Auditorium was the use of proceeds requirements.
The law states that at least 70 percent of the proceeds made from small games of chance must be used for public interest purposes, which include supporting youth programs, donations to food pantries, community projects, donations to certain charitable and certain nonprofit organizations and the purchase of fire and rescue equipment.
The remaining 30 percent must be kept in a separate bank account and can be used for that organization's operating expenses, which can include property taxes, utility and fuel costs, heating and air conditioning equipment or repair costs, water and sewer costs, mortgage payments, repair costs, entertainment equipment and more.
One attendee stated that many times, 70 percent of what the organization makes at those games are needed for operating costs to keep an organization going.
Jones said many clubs and organizations have it in their mission statements that the purpose is to help the public, not just be limited to being a social club.
He added that clubs and organizations will have to run like businesses and would have to take certain measures to make up costs — like raising drink prices.
Jones said booster organizations can get a license if they are recognized by the school board. Senior citizens centers hold the same standards.
For a complete text of the rules for small games of chance, visit www.pacode.com, select “Browse” from the left column, select “61 Revenue,” scroll down to and select “Chapter 901. Small Games of Chance”
Mark Hofmann is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-626-3539 or firstname.lastname@example.org.