Solobay introduces bill to loosen regulations on small games

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State senator Tim Solobay has introduced a bill he said will help streamline the way small games of chance run by nonprofits are regulated in order to open up a valuable source of revenue for organizations.


“After last year’s law was signed, VFWs, American legions, athletic clubs, churches and all other types of small nonprofit organizations found what they had been doing all along was suddenly illegal,” Solobay, D-Canonsburg, said by phone Saturday. “This new bill will let them go back and operate similar to what they were doing all along.”


Last year, a group of legislators including Solobay convinced Gov. Tom Corbett to suspend the reporting requirements of Act 2 and Act 184 legislation originally enacted in February 2012. Under the law, organizations had to report revenues generated from small games of chance and were regulated by the state liquor control board.


Many groups argued the stricter rules made it impossible for them to maintain valuable fundraising efforts.


“Many organizations that conduct games of chance are facing serious financial pressures and rely on a dwindling pool of volunteers,” Soloby said in a news release released Saturday. “The reporting requirements added last year created a huge burden.”


Solobay, a former fire chief and member of Canonsburg Volunteer Fire Department since 1978, sponsored Senate Bill 390 after what he described as months of meetings with different organizations.


“We hope this bill will come through to give some relief to the nonprofits out there,” Solobay said. “The intent was to accomplish some oversight and regulation, but at the same time give flexibility to those nonprofits.”


The bill would allow organizations to keep a greater portion of the donations collected through activities like 50/50 raffles, Chinese and silent auctions and activities like “Night at the Races.” Under the new law, enforcement of the small games code would fall under county attorneys rather than liquor control agents. It also would exempt organizations from filing the rigorous paperwork involved with small games if their event generated less that $150,000.


Solobay said the new legislation would clarify the law in the eyes of both law enforcement officials and organizers and bring fundraising activities that were formerly in legal limbo into the daylight.


“This will make all of those games of chance legal, so as not to make criminals out of people doing nothing more than trying to raise money for their organizations,” Solobay said. “They’re giving back to community. That money can be uses to fund all of those activities that make the community stronger.”


In addition to redefining games of chance, the bill also would allow groups greater freedoms in using carryover funds beyond the calendar year. Clubs will now be able to use small games proceeds on charitable and philanthropic events, and organizations would not have to record the name and address of contest winners with prizes of less than $600.


A similar bill, House Bill 290, has been introduced in the Pennsylvania House.


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