Corbett extends moratorium on new small games rules

Gov. Corbett extends moratorium on new small games rules

January 3, 2013
O-R file photo A Canton Township Fire Company bingo game in 2005

Gov. Tom Corbett has placed a moratorium on new small games of chance oversight to allow state lawmakers to tweak the law to appease fire departments and social clubs that depend on gambling for survival.

The decision announced Thursday was viewed as “great news for hundreds of small organizations” that struggled to understand the complicated law, said state Sen. Tim Solobay, D-Canonsburg.

“It was a mess from the beginning,” said Terry Gnora, treasurer of American Legion Post 212 in Donora. “They should have thought about it before they went ahead and did it, and they should have talked to the organizations.”

The moratorium cames as a response to the governor receiving “tens of thousands of signatures” on petitions circulated by such organizations in opposition to the law, which would have required 70 percent of the proceeds from bingos and raffles to be earmarked for public interest purposes and the keeping of records on those who won more than $100. The groups, some of which rely on few volunteers and employees, complained the extensive bookkeeping required by the new law was putting a strain on their ability to survive.

Corbett had agreed to raise the weekly prize limits from $5,000 to $25,000 as long as lawmakers increased enforcement on the games offered by organizations, some of which were using gambling illegally.

State Rep. Peter J. Daley said the announcement was “a major victory” for organizations that were threatening to close their doors because of the new rules.

“The governor realized something needs to be done to fix this problem,” said Daley, D-California.

Daley in September introduced legislation to repeal the law after hearing from both Republican and Democratic members of the state House about their receiving complaints regarding the new reporting rules and other regulations in the law.

“Our intent with passing the new law was not to do harm, but to help these organizations,” Daley said. “If the new law isn’t going to work, then let’s fix it now.”

He said the most important revision would allow such organizations to keep 70 percent of proceeds from the games to pay their bills.

“Some of us with experience as volunteers and as organization leaders predicted some of these unintended consequences when the bill was making its way through the Legislature,” stated Solobay, who is a volunteer fireman in his hometown.

“But we couldn’t convince everyone of the threat,” Solobay said. “Now, I think, everyone has heard from leaders in their communities, and we’re ready to make sure that the law preserves the viability of the organizations that desperately need the money to continue the work they do in the community.”

Scott Beveridge is a North Charleroi native who has lived most of his life in nearby Rostraver Township. He is a general assignments reporter focusing on investigative journalism and writing stories about the mid-Mon Valley. He has a bachelor's degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a master's from Duquesne University. Scott spent three weeks in Vietnam in 2004 as a foreign correspondent under an International Center for Journalists fellowship.

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