Support is getting cloudy for a bill aimed at helping veterans raise money for charity, after amendments to the bill were proposed.
For decades, American Legions, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Moose Lodges and other fraternal organizations in Delaware have used slot machines as a fundraiser.
Veterans have been working to legalize slot machines in their clubhouses since November, when they received a letter from Delaware State Police warning the machines were illegal and had to be unplugged.
In January, lawmakers passed House Bill 1 as a temporary measure to allow veterans to continue using profits from slot machines; the bill will expire Sunday, June 30.
Senate Bill 112 was designed to be a permanent and nearly identical substitute for HB 1, but the two bills are looking more different every day.
On June 11, senators approved an amendment to SB 112, which expands the law to allow any fraternal society that is at least 75 years old to use slot machines as a fundraiser.
At a House committee hearing June 19, four veterans testified they were still in support of the bill, but they asked legislators not to add any more amendments that might jeopardize support.
On June 25, Rep. Dennis E. Williams, D-Talleyville, introduced another amendment. If it passes the House, the amendment would prohibit smoking in any enclosed area used for slot machines.
Williams said he added the amendment at the request of constituents and public health organizations, such as the American Cancer Society. “I don’t know how much support it has right now,” he said.
Williams said the amendment seemed like the most convenient way to address smoking in the organizations’ clubhouses, but it was not meant to risk the chances of passing SB 112. “In no way was that the intent,” he said. “I support the bill.”
Williams said if the amendment poses a risk to SB 112, he would consider removing the amendment and making the proposal a stand-alone bill.
“We’re against adding the amendment,” said Ric Santos, state adjutant for Department of Delaware American Legion.
Santos said the amendment is an attempt for some legislators to advance their anti-smoking agenda. “I don’t think this is a torpedo to kill legislation for video lottery machines,” he said. “We just don’t feel it’s needed.”
“Don’t cloud the issue with smoke,” Santos said.
If the amendment passes, SB 112 would return to the Senate for a final vote; if it fails, the House will have the final say on SB 112.