ShareThis Page

Legislators push for bigger prizes to aid nonprofits

| Saturday, March 27, 2010

HARRISBURG -- A bill to expand prizes in small games of chance at clubs and fire halls was shelved when other gambling proposals took center stage in the Legislature.

Now, a bipartisan group of legislators is trying to revive House Bill 169, intended to help struggling nonprofit organizations by boosting prizes for drawings and raffles. Small games of chance, including punch boards, were legalized in the 1980s when the Legislature overrode a veto by the late Democratic Gov. Robert P. Casey.

"Hopefully, we'll get this moving," said Rep. Tim Solobay, D-Washington County, the bill's sponsor. He is Canonsburg's fire chief.

The bill was set for House consideration last April. But it was removed from the calendar and sent to the House Appropriations Committee. Gov. Ed Rendell's proposal to legalize video poker in taverns and clubs got most of the attention before it fell flat. Then, in the midst of last year's budget impasse, an unsuccessful proposal to tax small games of chance emerged. Last fall, both chambers were absorbed in approving table games at casinos.

All of that contributed to slowing down House Bill 169, Solobay said.

"Everybody was nervous about having two gambling proposals on the floor at the same time," he said.

Solobay and Republican Rep. Sheryl Delozier on Friday urged House leaders to move forward with the small games bill.

"Our community groups are struggling to meet their expenses and fund projects and services throughout our local communities," Delozier said. "This legislation has bipartisan support."

"We are continuing to review the bill," said Brett Marcy, a spokesman for House Majority Leader Todd Eachus, D-Luzerne County. "This is a complex issue that requires thoughtful deliberations by our caucus."

Rep. Eugene DePasquale, D-York, is finalizing another bill that would expand small games of chance prizes for nonprofits and legalize small games in taverns. DePasquale said his proposal would tax such games in taverns but not in clubs and social halls.

But some American Legion members with whom she has talked are leery of allowing small games in taverns, Delozier said.

Rep. Tom Caltagirone, D-Reading, is a co-sponsor of Solobay's bill. He said he would sign on to DePasquale's bill, in an effort to get something moving. Many clubs "are in terrible shape," Caltagirone said. "But mom and pop taverns have been taking a beating."

"Remember the idea of video poker in taverns sank like a stone," said Erik Arneson, communications director for Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware County. "I am not sure how much, if any, additional support exists for small games of chance in taverns."

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.