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Indiana Lawmakers Look At Charity Gaming Regulations

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(Brandon Smith/IPB News)

 Proposed changes to Indiana's charitable gambling regulations seek to expand the industry and streamline licensing, but don't mention the possibility of allowing payment to the people who organize and work the events.

Republican Rep. Ben Smaltz is carrying the legislation, which would allow for higher prize payouts and more nonprofits to offer charity gaming. The bill will also reduce the number of license types from 11 to six.

"Charity gaming allows communities to have funding for a variety of things that otherwise would be government supported — good causes," said Smaltz, who chairs the House Public Policy Committee, which will hear the legislation. "It just needed (to be) cleaned up."

However, the legislation isn't seeking to alter the requirement that organizations use volunteers to hold events, such as bingo, raffles, festivals and casino nights.

An Indiana Gaming Commission survey recently found that 63 percent of organizations support paying workers in some form, with 43 percent of those groups preferring to pay workers directly. Other organizations supported offering reduced membership fees, tipping, free meals or other forms of compensation.

Steve Lantz, finance officer for the Waynedale American Legion Post 241, said charity gambling events help sustain the post, but that the group is having a difficult time finding volunteers to run events.

The commission is avoiding policy discussions and focusing on making the system more efficient, said Sara Gonso Tait, the commission's executive director.

"We are really just seeking to modernize the charity gaming statute," Tait said.

Smaltz said he doesn't support changing the current law because nonprofits must follow IRS regulations and are limited to how much they can put into salaries.

"If they pay people, then is it truly charitable gaming that they are doing?" he asked.

Indiana legalized charity gaming in 1992. The industry had $413 million in gross revenue in 2017, with $66 million in profits. Funds go to churches, veterans groups, volunteer fire departments and youth programs.

Want to contact your legislators about an issue that matters to you? Find out how to contact your senators and member of Congress here.

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