PLAINS TWP. – Filing the paperwork with the state for raffles, daily drawings and pull tabs has become a big job for social clubs and organizations and led to some discontinuing small games of chance.
The games raise funds to be used in-house and in the community, but Act 2 of 2012 requires extensive record keeping in order to account for the money.
Records were always required, but not as much as they are now, said Bob Kozelsky, treasurer of the Henry Citizens Club.
For the amount of money, it's not worth it, he said.
At the private club that traces its beginnings to the 1920s when miners stopped by after working at the nearby Henry Colliery, Kozelsky fanned through a stack of papers explaining the law.
The 30-member club on Nicholson Street used to give away all of its proceeds after winnings and expenses for the games were paid. It's allowed to keep 30 percent of the proceeds under the new law and distribute the other 70 percent to local sports and civic organizations. Daily, weekly and monthly schedules have to be filled out. They're used to complete semiannual reports due on Feb. 1 and Aug. 1. The state extended the filing date a year to Feb. 1, 2014.
No one from the club volunteered to keep records for the pull-tab game in which players buy tickets from a machine and pull back paper tabs to see if they conceal a cash prize. We no longer are involved in the pull tabs, Kozelsky said.
The game's proceeds totaled between $300 and $500 a week between 2008 and 2011. When factoring in the club's 30 percent, Kozelsky said, it just wasn't enough of a return for the effort involved in doing the paperwork.
If the proceeds were anywhere near the $25,000 allowed under the law, it would be a different story, Kozelsky added.
The club holds a daily drawing, but doesn't keep any money from it. It's a 100-percent giveaway, he said.
The paperwork involved with that game isn't too bad, he said.
The club isn't the only loser since it discontinued the pull-tab game.
In accordance with the law the club set up a bank account for the game's proceeds in July and deposited a little more than $2,500 in it.
Kozelsky opened up a check book for the account and went through the payments: $500 each to the Plains Little League, the Plains Lions Club and Plains Yankees football team; $1,000 to the Fathers Club 100 for the Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts and Girl Scouts.
Then I had $55 left over. I sent that to the Valley Santa, Kozelsky said. It's zeroed out now.
If the lawmakers want to help they could simplify the reporting requirements or legalize video poker machines that were money makers for the Henry Club and others, Kozelsky said.
The state has cracked down on the illegal machines, seizing them during raids. The club was one of the places targeted.
Kozelsky recalled a meeting about video poker that state Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, D-Wilkes-Barre, held a few years ago.
Pashinski remembered it too, saying they talked about putting video poker machines in taverns and clubs.
He and other lawmakers couldn't get legislation passed on that issue and instead came up with Act 2.
Lawmakers might want to revisit the record-keeping component so it's not so cumbersome, Pashinski said.
Still he supported the intent of the legislation to create accountability because Act 2 increased the prize limits.
You just can't give regular folks an opportunity to handle hundreds of thousands of dollars and not expect them to become weak, Pashinski said.
The lawmaker also wants to have another shot at legalizing video poker so taverns and clubs could compete with casinos and raise money for property tax relief. I don't want casinos to put clubs and tavern owners out of business, he said.
The machines would be connected to a main hub just like the slot machines in the casinos are so that every time a quarter gets spent, it's counted in Harrisburg, Pashinski said.
Under legislation he plans to introduce the money would be split 50/50 between the license holders of the machines and the state.
What I'm waiting for now are some accurate figures, Pashinski said.
The machines could generate as much as $500 million for the state, he said.
Property owners in Luzerne County on average receive a $211 break from legalized gambling at the casinos. They could receive more if his legislation passes.
He acknowledged that there was still much to be done just to get the bill ready.