The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

July 8, 2012

Mayor: State law threatens clubs, fire companies

SUNBURY — Sunbury Mayor David Persing is blaming unions and casinos for a law that he says threatens the city’s fire department and private clubs.

The law, changed in February, restricts what clubs and fire companies can do with 70 percent of the money they receive by operating small games of chance. The organizations are permitted to spend only 30 percent of their gaming earnings on their operations.

“This could be detrimental to us here,” Persing said. “We could never afford to pay a fire department, and if they can’t sell those small games of chance and use the money to help pay the bills, they may not be able to survive.”

The mayor is inviting anyone associated with private clubs in the city to attend tonight’s City Council meeting to discuss working together to overturn the law.

In February, Gov. Tom Corbett signed into law Act 2 amending the Local Option Small Games of Chance Act. The law increased prize limits, but included additional licensing rules and regulations for organizations. The following month, individual prize limits increased from $500 to $1,000, and the maximum amount of prize money that could be awarded during an operating week increased from $5,000 to $25,000

That was the good news for clubs. But then they learned that club licensees are only allowed to use up to 30 percent of proceeds — the difference between gross revenue collected from a games of chance and prizes paid — from small games of chance for operational expenses.

That means that no less than 70 percent of proceeds must be used for public interest purposes in the calendar year in which the proceeds were obtained. And that hurts, Persing said.

“Some of these clubs bank on that money,” he said. “They need it to pay bills, and they need it to stay afloat. We need to get these people together and we need to talk about this and see what we can do to help our clubs out.”

Starting on July 1, clubs were required to keep the books and send in documentation to the state semi-annually.

“We need to get everyone together and try and come up with a solution on this,” Persing said.

State Rep. Lynda Schlegel Culver, R-108 of Sunbury, said she is in talks with other state officials to change the law.

“From my understanding, it was initially was supposed to help nonprofits. They have been asking for the prize limits to be increased, and we did that,” she said.

“We had concerns that 30 percent is not enough to keep them going. We have gone back to the gaming committee to see what can be done. I believe the private clubs hold a valuable place in our society. The intent is not to hurt them. We need to look at this again.”

City Council meets at 6:15 tonight in the municipal building, and Persing said he plans on asking all private club officers to attend.

n Email comments to fscarcella@dailyitem.com.

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