Bill Would Tweak Slots Wording

OCEAN CITY — Among the dozens of bills pre-filed in advance of the 2012 General Assembly session is a piece of legislation introduced by Eastern Shore Senators Jim Mathias (D-38) and Richard Colburn (R-37) that would alter the amount of charitable donations service clubs and fraternal organizations make to local causes.

After three unsuccessful tries in the General Assembly, state lawmakers last spring finally approved a bill adding Worcester to the list of eight other counties on the Eastern Shore that allow a limited number of slot machines in service clubs and fraternal organizations in an effort to enhance their fundraising efforts. Early this summer, the first slot machines opened for business in places such as the American Legion and the Elks Lodge in Ocean City and at seven other locations around Worcester County.

By all accounts, the slot machines in the service clubs have been a rousing success with thousands of dollars raised for charity. For example, in the first two months alone, the American Legion in Ocean City was able to donate roughly $14,000 to area non-profits and youth organizations and that figure was expected to soar throughout the rest of the year.

However, language in the bill passed last year required half of the gross proceeds generated by the slots in the service clubs in the nine Eastern Shore counties be donated to charity. A bill pre-filed by Mathias and Colburn would alter the bill to read “one half of the net after payout proceeds from slot machines operated by certain non-profit organizations in counties on the Eastern Shore must benefit charities.”

The subtle language change could significantly change the amount of money donated to charities, as required by law. With most of the machines set to pay out 80 to 90 percent, the difference between the “gross” and the “net proceeds after payout” could be substantial.

“The language in the original bill passed last year is a little muddy,” he said. “This pre-filed bill is an attempt to clarify that somewhat.”

Meanwhile, another pre-filed bill would extend the authorization of slot machines in service clubs, fraternal organizations and religious groups all over Maryland. Currently, the nine counties on the Eastern Shore allow limited slot machine gambling in the service clubs, but Senate Bill 11 would, if approved, extend the authority to all service clubs and organizations across Maryland.

Yet another pre-filed bill would allow the Maryland Lottery to place a certain number of instant lottery machines in veterans’ organizations. However, the bill excludes the shore.