A bill to legalize gambling in veterans clubs and other nonprofit organizations is headed to the House for a final vote.
Senate Bill 112 cleared the Senate in a 15-2 vote June 11, and was released from committee to the floor of the House June 19. The legislation would allow nationally affiliated veterans' organizations to legally continue longstanding use of slot machines as a way to raise funds for charity.
An amendment to the bill allows any fraternal society that is at least 75 years old to use slot machines as a fundraiser. At a House Gaming and Pari-mutuels Committee hearing, Secretary of Finance Tom Cook said he did not know how many organizations would be allowed slot machines under the amendment, but he said it would not dramatically expand gambling in the state.
Four members of fraternal clubs testified in favor of SB 112, including Jeff Crouser of American Legion Post 2 in Dover and Tom Jones of Dave Dolby AMVETS Post 2 in Long Neck. Both men said veterans organization in the state would like to see the General Assembly pass SB 112 with no more amendments.
John Mitchell, vice commander of Department of Delaware Veterans of Foreign Wars said, “We want you to support it.”
“We do feel a bit betrayed by the attachment,” Mitchell said. “Somebody’s trying to hitchhike here.”
In November, Delaware State Police sent veterans’ clubs a letter threatening to revoke liquor licenses because the slot machines they had used for decades to raise charitable funds were illegal.
Veterans across the state rallied, protested and met with state officials to craft a solution that would legalize the machines and allow the clubs to stay in operation.
In January, lawmakers passed House Bill 1 as a temporary measure to allow veterans to continue using profits from slot machines for charity; the bill is set to expire Sunday, June 30. SB 112 was designed to be a permanent substitute for HB 1.
“This has been a long, drawn-out process,” said Bessie Staab-Hickman, government relations coordinator for Maryland, Delaware, D.C. Moose Association. She asked that no more amendments be added to the bill.
“It’s complicated enough,” Staab-Hickman said. “We don’t need to complicate the issue any further.”
No members of the public testified against the legislation. SB 112 awaits a final vote in the House of Representatives.