These tough economic times have taken a toll on many nonprofit civic organizations.

Groups that traditionally have given back to the community through fundraisers and other ventures have found it more difficult to do so in recent times because of the recession that has struck just about everyone, from the top of the ladder on down.

That's why legislation passed by the state House last week couldn't have come at a better time.

The house passed a bill that would expand small games of chance for nonprofit civic organizations.

Despite the economy, people are still gambling, hoping for that big win that will provide them with financial stability during their lifetime. Whether its trips to casinos, or playing the state lottery games, hope springs eternal for those who patronize these ventures.

If people are going to gamble anyway, wouldn't it be better to patronize local groups, organizations who would keep the revenue they make in the local sector?

The recently passed House bill would change Pennsylvania's small games of chance law to increase the prize limit for daily drawings and raffles from $500 to $1,000; increase weekly prize limits from $5,000 to $25,000; allow eligible nonprofit organizations to hold monthly drawings as well as multiple daily drawings; and allow organization to use some of what they take in through small games of chance for operating expenses.

"Civic organizations throughout the state are struggling financially," said Rep. John Siptroth of Monroe County, a supporter of the bill. "Not only are they having trouble covering their expenses, but have little left over for the community projects they provide that enhance the lives of so many people across the Commonwealth. This bill would give them a boost."

The types of organizations affected by the bill would include volunteer fire companies, veterans' organizations, religious groups, and civic and service clubs.

The Pennsylvania Local Option Small Games of Chance Act was enacted in 1988 to allow certain nonprofit organizations to conduct small games of chance for the purpose of raising funds for public interest purposes. Siptroth said is has not been updated to reflect the growing needs of civid organization.

The House bill passed on a bipartisan 166-24 vote, which provided overwhelming support.

It now moves to the state Senate for consideration.

We're confident the senators will view the importance of passing the bill the same as House members did.

Bob Urban

tneditor@tnonline.com