State Sen. Tim Solobay has introduced a bill that will make needed changes to Pennsylvania’s cumbersome Small Games of Chance Law.
“The law that went into place last year made it impossible for some small organizations to comply, threatening their existence,” Solobay said. “We can’t underestimate the importance of local volunteer organizations to both the fabric and the economy of communities.”
Earlier this year, the Corbett administration agreed to suspend the reporting requirements of Act 2 of 2012 after community organizations across the state complained that the bill’s requirements could cause them to close their doors.
Solobay’s new bill, Senate Bill 390, would allow organizations to keep a greater share of their revenues from small games to operate their organization. It would also exempt smaller organizations from the new reporting and background-check requirements if they generate less than $150,000 a year from games of chance.
Solobay, a former fire chief who still serves as an officer with the Canonsburg Volunteer Fire Department, said he has decades of experience with the struggle to recruit volunteers and continue community service.
"Many organizations that conduct games of chance are facing serious financial pressures and rely on a dwindling pool of volunteers,” Solobay, D-Canonsburg, said. “The reporting requirements added last year created a huge burden for them.”
Solobay said SB 390 would make a number of other common-sense changes to the law, such as legitimizing a number of games that most organizations thought were legal for years, such as monthly drawings, Chinese auctions, coin auctions, and “A Night at the Races.” Non-members would also be permitted to conduct games of chance with authorization of organization’s officers.
Another significant provision of the legislation delegates small games of chance oversight to local law enforcement instead of the state Liquor Control Enforcement officers, who, Solobay said, have drawn complaints because of overzealous action over minimal infractions.
Most importantly, Solobay said, Act 2 "resulted in widespread confusion and hardship, and it needs to be simplified."
“Many of these local clubs and charitable organizations are struggling to make ends meet. The changes I’m proposing in SB 390 would help them survive so that their valuable contribution to the local communities can continue,” he said.
Senate Bill 390 would also:
- Allow organizations to limit the prize of a daily, weekly or monthly drawing by up to 50 percent if the winner isn’t present at the time of drawing.
- Allow club licensees to carryover funds—either the portion retained for operational expenses or the portion paid to public interest—beyond the calendar year if they notify the Department of Revenue of a significant purchase or project.
- Clarify that charity events, scholarship programs and philanthropic events held by the club are a valid public interest purpose and the club may spend small games proceeds for public interest purposes on these events.
- Delete the limitations throughout the act that require an organization to have a licensed premises, conduct all games of chance at their licensed premises, prohibit organizations from sharing a licensed premises, etc.
- Allow members to purchase a chance for the next daily, weekly or monthly drawing as soon as a daily, weekly or monthly drawing has taken place.
- Increase the threshold at which an organization must record the name address of a winner from $100 to $600, in line with the current IRS reporting requirements.