Small Games of Chance Law continues to concern local organizations
By Mark Hofmann
Published: Monday, May 13, 2013, 7:15 p.m.
Perryopolis Volunteer Fire Department Chief A.J. Boni fears that if volunteer fire departments are crippled by new state regulations regarding small games of chance, they may fold.
On Thursday, local organizations that rely on small games of chance will send representatives to a public hearing being held at Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus, where state officials will discuss changes that have been made to the original Small Games of Chance Law.
After much outrage from fire departments and organizations last year concerning the enforcement of the law, the state Department of Revenue delayed enforcement for one year.
Since then, revisions were made by the state House to HB290. The House passed the bill and it is awaiting action from the Senate.
“I was hearing from veterans groups, social organizations and Little League organizations,” said state Rep. Deberah Kula, D-Fayette/Westmoreland. “There are still some things in it that will cause problems for their fundraising efforts.”
Kula, who serves as chairwoman of the Southwest Democratic Caucus, wanted to hear from those organizations that rely on fundraising with games of chance as to how it would affect them.
She invited organizations to a meeting at 11:30 a.m. Thursday in Swimmer Hall in the Williams Building.
On the agenda to speak is Fayette County District Attorney Jack Heneks, Connellsville American Legion Post No. 301 Cmdr. Russell Miller, R.W. Clark Baseball League President Traver Waligura and Boni.
“The only lifeline fire companies have left is the opportunity of fundraising,” Boni said, adding that while the changes to the bill are a start, the standards in the bill could cripple agencies. “We would be held to stricter standards than the Pennsylvania Lottery.”
Boni, who is a Perry Township supervisor, said if fire departments fold, municipalities will not be able to afford to fund a fire department.
“It takes hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to fund a fire company,” Boni said. “The cost for training has tripled, and equipment has quadrupled.”
For example, Boni said his fire department recently purchased a fire truck and will be paying $2,500 a month for many years.
“That's a lot of hoagies to sell,” Boni said.
Kula said that while the revisions give organizations a little more money to pay their bills, it's not enough for organizations like veterans groups that are involved in public service and military funerals.
“The nonprofit organizations that operate small games of chance as a financial lifeline need to be heard, and this public hearing provides that opportunity,” Kula said. “When this law was last updated, as Act 2 of 2012, not all the wrinkles had been ironed out.”
As a representative, Kula said she wants to hear the testimony and opinions and have a better handle on the proposed changes.
“I'm hoping a lot of people are interested,” Kula said, adding when she attended a prior meeting at an American Legion, the room was filled. “I really do expect a large turnout.”
Mark Hofmann is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-626-3539 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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