Proposal would hike charitable gaming fees

May 17, 2010
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LANSING — Most charitable gaming licenses would become more expensive under legislation intended to increase state revenue by $2.5 million annually.

Charities are experiencing significant decreases in donations at a time when more people are coming to them for assistance, due to the long economic downturn in the state and the high, the sponsor, Rep. Harold Haugh, D-Roseville, said.

Haugh said the main purpose of his bill is to “protect the charitable organizations.”

Co-sponsors include Reps. Roy Schmidt, D-Grand Rapids; Lesia Liss, D-Warren; Dan Scripps, D-Leland; and Jimmy Womack, D-Detroit. The House has passed the bill, which is awaiting action in the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee.

In part, the bill would increase license fees and create a new location license for millionaire parties.

Millionaire parties, also known as “Las Vegas parties,” are a form of charitable gaming that allows organizations to offer casino-type table games such as poker, dice, and roulette to raise money. Millionaire party applications have increased over the previous year.

The bill would require the Lottery Bureau to hire four people to process applications. Under the bill, for example, the license fee for a “large bingo” would increase from $150 to $175 and an annual charity game license would increase from $200 to $400.

In March, the bureau’s Charitable Gaming Division has approved 741 applications for licenses, compared to 722 in March 2009. Between last Oct. 1 and March 31, the division issued 4,565 licenses, up from 3,805 for the same period a year earlier, said Andi Brancato, the Lottery public relations officer.

However, the Michigan Nonprofit Association worries that the legislation would place a heavier financial burden on organizations that use charitable gaming.

Lisa Sommer, the association’s public relations manager, said supporters of the bill “indicated that the reason for the increased fees was to provide more staffing for Charitable Gaming to help oversee the processing of charitable gaming licenses, which have increased in number dramatically over the last few years.

“However, the funding from these license fees goes to the overall Lottery Bureau, which is already operating on a surplus,” she said.

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