Lehighton seminar focuses on games of chance
Gail Maholick/TIMES NEWS Todd Merlina, enforcement supervisor with the Pennsylvania State Police, Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement, answers questions of officers of the Lehighton Pool Association. From left are, Merlina, James Kemmerer, president; Willis Garber, secretary/treasurer; and Steve McEvoy, sponsor, during the information seminar held Thursday night at the Lehighton Annex to inform the public about the sweeping changes in the Local Option Small Games of Chance Act.
Volunteer fire companies, social halls, fraternal groups and many other nonprofit groups learned how the sweeping changes to the Local Option Small Games of Chance Act can affect their fundraising actions.
Over 80 people attended the three-hour informational seminar held at the Lehighton Annex building Thursday night. Todd Merlina, enforcement supervisor with the Pennsylvania State Police, Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement, presented the program.
After being introduced by state Rep. Doyle Heffley, Merlina told the audience about Act 2 of 2012, which was signed into law by the governor on Feb. 2, 2012 and became effective 30 days later. While most of the law remained the same with respect to the different types of games and the application procedure, more accountability requirements were added.
Merlina explained what gambling is and how it is determined by authorities.
"There have to be three elements consideration, chance and reward," he said. "When any one is missing, it is not gambling."
He noted that when skill is involved, it is not considered gambling, such as when someone can master a game such as in darts or billiards.
Merlina noted that if the value of the available prize for an individual is less than the cost of the chance (consideration), then the contest is not gambling.
He listed the legal and illegal gambling activities and outlined the legislative intent of the law, types of licenses and how to apply for one. He noted that auxiliary groups are not eligible to obtain a license or limited occasion license, but may be under the umbrella of the home association if they are listed on the application.
Merlina said that the new law affects accountability, which will require frequent updates, background checks and compensation.
"A person may not be compensated for conducting games of chance," he said. "You cannot offer your seller a free ticket for selling 10 tickets."
He also noted that no person under 18 may operate or participate in small games of chance (SGOC) and that no one may be visibly intoxicated when they sell or buy them.
He also noted that the intent of the law wants to eliminate people with inside knowledge from participating in any games of chance.
"If a bartender is selling raffle tickets and knows there is a winner remaining, and buys the rest of the box knowing he will win, that is fraudulent," Merlina said.
He also noted that legitimate expenses are the costs of the tickets and prizes and the funds remaining are the proceeds.
The proceeds from the operation of a SGOC may only be used for three purposes: purchase of small games of chance, public interest purposes and certain operating expenses of certain eligible organizations.
Merlina discussed how organizations can legally operate by notifying the district attorney and licensing authority.
The new law requires record keeping and a separate bank account of proceeds. He also alerted the group that there are penalties for non compliance with the law.
Merlina said any additional questions can be directed to the website at http:www.legis.state.pa.us/WUO1/LI/LI/US/MTM/2012/0/0002. HTM.