Traverse City Record-Eagle

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April 10, 2014

New charity poker rules in need of reset

There ought to be a way to allow charitable gaming in Michigan — and that depends on the rules that govern the industry.

The state Gaming Control Board is pushing regulations proposed to keep charitable gaming on the up-and-up. Businesses that run the games argue the rules are impossibly harsh.

Many charities echo that complaint and fear the new rules will cripple fundraising efforts.

After the Gaming Control Board withdrew new rules it proposed for charitable gaming on March 19, critics hoped it had a change of heart. But the board soon submitted different rules that still take the hard line.

The board’s target is millionaire party revenue. From 2004 to 2011, the revenue increased from $7.9 million to $197 million.

Rick Kalm, the state Gaming Control Board’s executive director, said the rapid growth of stand-alone, casino-like facilities that serve charities’ fundraising efforts is the problem. He said the state’s provisions for millionaire parties in halls of civic groups or festivals didn’t anticipate businesses created to facilitate charitable gaming.

There is a suspicion, though, that millionaire parties’ dramatic growth may have provoked a response from Michigan’s casino industry. The money charities and “poker houses” was taking from Detroit’s casinos maybe was a factor in the crackdown.

Since 2010, the state Gaming Control Board has closed 22 charitable gaming locations. It effectively shut down Maverick’s Poker Palace and Saloon in Port Huron by refusing charities permission to host games there.

There were problems at a few poker houses, where proprietors allegedly defrauded charities and players, but not all.

Crafting onerous and unworkable regulations that punish all poker houses for the sins of a few is unreasonable, unfair to them and is cruel to the community charities that rely on them to pay for their good works.

Enforce existing laws. Weed out the bad operators.

Michigan charities and the people and causes they serve deserve a fair deal.

Times Herald (Port Huron)

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