Thursday, May 27, 2004

Bingo bill compromise reached to help small clubs cover costs

By Leo Shane III
Enquirer Columbus Bureau

COLUMBUS - The House and Senate agreed on a compromise bingo bill Wednesday designed to give smaller clubs more gambling profits to cover their operating costs.

The proposal, a watered-down version of more comprehensive gaming revisions supported by the House in March, was the result of several weeks of pushing and protests from veterans and fraternal groups, which have complained that the current law is driving their clubs to bankruptcy.

Supporters of the more extensive revisions said the new bill is disappointing because it doesn't do enough to help the clubs. But they concede it is better than no change at all.

"This accomplished some of our goals," said Rep. Nancy Hollister, R-Marietta, the bill's original sponsor. "Am I totally pleased with it? No. But this is a much more positive thing for our veterans and fraternals than what we were looking at a week ago."

State lawmakers passed a bill in 2003 requiring eligible groups to donate 55 percent of gambling profits to charity. The remainder can be used for specific operating expenses, but not employee salaries.

The new bill mandates only 25 percent of the first $75,000 in profits must be donated, while 55 percent of additional profits are earmarked for charity. The revenue cutoff figure will increase annually for inflation.

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