By CHENQI GUO
Capital News Service
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 greater numbers of people are coming to them for assistance, due to the long economic downturn in the state and the high unemployment and under-employment rates, the sponsor, Rep. Harold Haugh, D-Roseville, said.
Haugh said the main purpose of his bill is to “protect the charitable organizations.”
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.
And association President Kyle Caldwell said, “We have a policy of not endorsing legislation that imposes fees on nonprofits to do what government is structured to do. To raise these fees on nonprofits at a rate of 30 to100 percent and provide no guarantee that nonprofits will see any sort of benefits for these increased fees is not something that we can support.”
Co-sponsors include Reps. Lesia Liss, D-Warren; Dan Scripps, D-Leland; Jimmy Womack, D-Detroit and Roy Schmidt, D-Grand Rapids.
The House has passed the bill which is awaiting action in the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee.
© 2010, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.