Thursday, March 18, 2004

More fixes for charitable gaming statutes

By Leo Shane III
Gannett Columbus Bureau

COLUMBUS - House officials expect to pass major revisions to Ohio's charitable gaming laws next week, in response to fraternal organizations' and other community groups' complaints that the rules are ruining them financially.

But those critics say that, while the changes are a step in the right direction, they aren't a perfect fix.

"We've had several chapters close down, and more won't survive to the end of the year even if this passes," said David Alsip, state secretary for the Fraternal Order of Eagles. "The question is if this is going to happen quick enough to save some of those clubs."

Lawmakers approved the charitable gaming rules in 2002 in an effort to stop illegal instant-bingo parlors.

The Legislature rewrote portions of that bill last summer after community organizations began complaining about restrictions on how the money could be donated and whether some of the profit could be used for group operating expenses.

On Tuesday, a House committee approved another set of revisions, which include easing bingo licensing laws, expanding the weekly hours when charitable gaming can take place, and allowing groups to use more of their profits to defray overhead costs.

Bill sponsor Rep. Nancy Hollister, R-Marietta, said she is confident the measure protects worthycommunity groups while making sure the bingo parlors don't reappear.

House Speaker Larry Householder, R-Glenford, said he expects to put the new bill up for a full House vote sometime next week.

Clubs will still only be able to use 45 percent of bingo profits for various expenses under the bill. Alsip sees it as language that hurts respectable groups.

"Instead of punishing us, they should go after the bad guys," he said.

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