General Assembly Considers More Changes to Law Governing Small Games of Chance

The PA Senate almost completed their work on HB 209 before they left for the summer 2013 recess. HB 209, a bill to further amend the laws governing the operation of “small games of chance,” was on the Senate voting schedule for two days. It was referred back to the Senate Appropriations Committee. Earlier in the year, the House adopted a different version of the measure. HB 209 must pass the Senate, and because it was amended, the House must vote again. The General Assembly will not return to Harrisburg until the third week in September.

In February, the PA House passed HB 209, a bill to once again amend the laws governing the operation of “small games of chance” to raise funds.

Last year, the General Assembly approved legislation that sought to clarify and make improvements to the original 25-year old law. But many constituent organizations, including veterans and service groups, were very unhappy with the results. The required record-keeping and reporting were considered overly burdensome, particularly for small groups. (The Corbett Administration, in fact, postponed reporting until next January.)

The 2012 act also limited—to 30 percent—the amount of a club’s proceeds that could be used for internal operating costs.

So the law is being revised again. By a solid vote of 186-10, the state House approved HB 290, which exempts smaller clubs from having to do the annual financial reports and allows them to keep all of their gaming profits for operating expenses. The new bill defines "smaller" clubs as those with net gaming proceeds under $40,000 a year.

The larger fraternal groups -- those with more than $40,000 a year in net gaming profits -- can use the first $40,000 for operating expenses. After exceeding that threshold, 30 percent of the money can go for operations -- with the remaining 70 percent to be spent on "purely public charities" ( student scholarships, parks equipment, aid to Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, etc.)

Small Games of Chance Reporting Postponed

The PA Department of Revenue announced recently that the reporting required under The Pennsylvania Local Option Small Games of Chance Act has been postponed until February 1, 2014. Originally, the reports were due by February 1 of this year.

Pennsylvania’s General Assembly adopted two bills last year that amended the law. Act 2 and Act 184 of 2012 created new definitions, increased prize limits, added new games, provided additional licensing rules and regulations for organizations, created reporting requirements and amended enforcement provisions.

Beginning Feb. 1, 2014, eligible organizations (non-club licensees) with proceeds in excess of $2,500 in a year must electronically file an annual report with the Department of Revenue for the preceding calendar year.

Similarly, beginning Feb. 1, 2014, club licensees (organizations with liquor licenses that hold licenses to conduct small games of chance) are required to electronically file semi-annual reports with the Department. These reports are due Feb. 1 for the preceding six-month period beginning July 1 and ending Dec. 31, and Aug. 1 for the preceding six-month period beginning Jan. 1 and ending June 30.

For a complete list of the types of information required in each report, please click here: Department of Revenue-Small Games of Chance Amendments.

All reports must be filed electronically at www.revenue.state.pa.us/SGOC, and the online filing application walks organizations, step-by-step, through reporting requirements and fields with detailed instruction. The site will not accept input until January 2, 2014.

Due to many constituent complaints, several legislators are planning new proposals to address the difficulties created by the changes in the law. The 2013 session of the General Assembly is just getting underway but PANO will be monitoring any new legislation.

Small Games of Chance Resources from the PA Deparment of Revenue

Information for Nonprofits interested in conducting small games of chance.