Michigan Governor and Senate Back Conflicting Charitable Gaming Regulations
The Michigan Senate last week passed a charitable gambling bill pertaining to the charity events known as “millionaire parties”. In a rare unanimous vote, the Michigan State Senate issued a challenge to governor Rick Snyder, who had proposed his own charitable gambling legislation.
A millionaires club is a casino-style gaming event organized by certain nonprofit organizations stage which include Texas hold’em poker tables and blackjack tables. These events often are hosted by poker rooms, who split the proceeds with the nonprofit organizations.
Governor Snyder’s bill places special restrictions on the activities of these charitable gaming operators, while the senate’s version is less restrictive. Meanwhile, state authorities have begun a crackdown on the charity poker rooms across the state. Michigan has seen a proliferation of charitable gambling in the past 10 years.
Similarities in Both Bills
Both sides want to have criminal background checks of poker room licensees. Anyone running a blackjack fundraiser or Texas holdem fundraiser would be required to undergo an extension criminal background check.
Bingo nights, which are run by charity organizations like the Knights of Columbus, would be largely unaffected by either set of new rules. If civic organizations like the Knights of Columbus chose to have millionaires clubs or casino night events, then the new laws would apply. This is an important distinction, because the Knights of Columbus and other community-support organizations need charitable gaming to support programs like “Coats for Kids”.
Differences in the Bills
The two sides different on how the revenues should be split among the nonprofit and profit-making organizers. Under the Senate’s bill, the for-profit organizers could keep 50% of the revenues, as they have for the past 10 years. Under the governor’s plan, the for-profit parties would be allowed to keep 45%.
Governor Snyder and the Senate have a difference of opinion on the number of charities which should be allowed to host casino-style events at a single venue. The rules set by the governor would allow 2 charities to run games concurrently, while the Senate’s bill would allow 4 charities at a time and 8 nonprofit events at a location in one day’s time.
Also, the two cannot agree on how many days per year a card room should be allowed to operate. Governor Snyder’s regulations would limit charitable gaming to operation at a location only 208 days per year. The Senate’s regulations would allow charities to host events at a venue 365 days a year.
Yet another difference between the plans is the limit on how much can be gambled. Governor Snyder wants the maximum wagered at an event to be $15,000, while the Senate wants to raise that limit to $20,000. Finally, the two sides cannot agree on how many members of the charity should be required to be on-site when gaming events are taking place.
Michigan Gaming Control Board Rules
Next week, the tighter regulations supported by the governor will go into effect. Those new rules were established under the auspices of the Michigan Gaming Control Board, which was appointed by the governor. The new rules are one reason the Michigan Senate moved this week.
The sponsor of the new Senatorial legislation, State Senator Rick Jones, says he is working in the interests of the many churches, school foundations, veterans’ groups, and civic service organizations who rely on charity gaming for their operations. Senator Jones says those groups are concerned about the coming regulations.
“I think it’s extremely unfair for the gaming commission to suddenly say, ‘We’ve allowed this for over a decade and now we’re going to change the rules,” Senator Jones said, “So I’m hoping that the House takes this and we get it to the governor, and I hope we can keep this form of revenue for the little charities.”
Governor Believes Bill Will Die in the House
Aides to Governor Snyder said the administration remains committed to the rules, despite the unanimous vote. The aides said they expect the Senate’s legislation to die in the House. At the least, they believe the 10-member Joint Committee on Administrative Rules will not act before the May 1 deadline, when the administration’s new policies go into effect.
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