Veterans all-in against Pa. small-games bill - abc27 WHTM

Veterans all-in against Pa. small-games bill

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Small games of chance are getting a big push back in Pennsylvania. A state bill that would allow pubs, taverns and bars to operate raffles and drawings is up against veteran opposition.

Since the 80's, raffles and drawings were done exclusively inside civic and private clubs. These types of games most non-profits argue is what keeps them in operation and covers utility and housing costs.

On Tuesday, military veterans with the Pennsylvania VFW and American Legion filled the Capitol Rotunda to block House Bill 1098, dubbed the Small Games of Chance bill.

VFW state commander John Getz called for opposition to the bill he claimed would force many clubs to shut their doors.

"Right now, everybody is struggling," Getz said. "Costs are going up, but our income is not going up."

The state Senate approved the bill in late October. Supporters of House Bill 1098 explain that private clubs would keep 40 percent of the profits, up from the 30 percent they keep currently. Additionally, private clubs would be tax-exempt under the bill while bars would be required to pay state taxes at 60 percent.

Amy Christie, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage Association, said the bill would strengthen charitable donations to veterans organizations.

"We're not taking away from anything like that," she said, "and we're not getting anything that they have that's going to be any kind of threat to them."

Of course, a round of vets and a few lawmakers believe otherwise. Getz argued in this tight economy, people are spending less of their cash on games of chance, therefore any competition for people to spend money elsewhere would hurt.

State Representative Kevin Haggerty (D-Lackawanna) put his support behind the veterans. He said the bill hinders what veterans clubs aim to do.

"They raise the capital they need for their institutions, for their veterans clubs. They do it for themselves," he said. "What do we do as a legislature? We make it harder for you. It's wrong."

Lawmakers including Governor Tom Corbett said the expansion of small games in bars would generate $150-200 million in annual tax revenue for Pennsylvania. The State Budget Office did some analysis and expects the Pennsylvania Lottery would see a five percent decrease in participation and profits.

The bill does have regulations on what type of pub, bar, or tavern could participate in small games of chance play. The games would be banned in nuisance bars and in grocery stores with a liquor license.

Supporters also argue that bars must adhere to state laws of operation, whereas private clubs are allowed to stay open longer, later and could offer more access than public businesses.

"We want all of us to survive in Pennsylvania," Christie said. "This is a win-win for charity. It's a win for private clubs."

The bill currently is awaiting approval in the House.


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