Delaware veterans have come out on top of a long-fought battle over a controversial fundraiser.
Senate Bill 112 permanently legalizes the use of slot machines in veterans’ clubhouses, provided a certain percentage of the profits go to charity. State lawmakers passed the bill in the final hours of legislative session.
“I’m a happy camper,” said AMVETS member Tom Jones on July 1. “The governor signed it last night.”
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 funds for charity were illegal.
Veterans across the state protested what they called sudden enforcement of the law. Jones and a handful of representatives from other fraternal organizations in the state worked with Secretary of Finance Tom Cook and Gov. Jack Markell’s staff 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.
SB 112 was designed to be a permanent substitute for HB 1. The bill was subject to two amendments – one that would have prohibited smoking where slot machines were used and another that would have expanded the allowance of slot machines to any fraternal organization that was at least 75 years old.
The amendment to prohibit smoking was stricken by the same legislator who introduced it – Rep. Dennis E. Williams, D-Talleyville.
Democratic Sen. Nicole Poore’s amendment to expand slot machine use passed the Senate June 11, but was killed in the House, June 30.
Jones said veterans and members of other fraternal groups packed the galleries at Legislative Hall to show support for SB 112. He said the bill was approved in the House after 9 p.m., June 30; the Senate approved the bill – in its original form – after midnight.
“We were happy; we were really jubilant,” Jones said. “Everybody stood up and clapped.”
Jones thanked Sussex County legislators, including House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, for supporting the bill. “I’ve got to give Pete a lot of credit, and the delegation from Sussex County,” Jones said. “They really stuck together on this one – the Republicans and the Democrats.”