If a proposed bill passes in North Carolina, people will be able to participate in gaming nights held by nonprofits and enjoy an adult beverage at the same time.
But the bill is running into criticism in the legislature.
Rep. Jamie Boles (R-Moore) has filed HB 511, “Game Nights/Nonprofit Fund-Raiser.” It would allow nonprofit organizations to serve alcohol during gaming nights, albeit with some restrictions.
Many nonprofits hold activities wherein games of chance are played. For example, bingo nights and raffles are held to raise money for the organization.
Adding alcohol to the mix is an idea that has been presented at the NC General Assembly in the past. Boles’ bill brings the issue to the forefront once again, and this time the bill may have a chance of being passed. It was passed by the House Finance Committee on Tuesday, and is scheduled to be put on the calendar for the full House soon.
John Rustin, president of the NC Family Policy Council said the bill gives his organization significant concerns.
“First, it creates an uneven playing field between nonprofits and cannibalizes funding that’s intended for charitable purposes,” Rustin said. “The research that we have done in states that have legalized nonprofit casino nights shows that nonprofits benefit very little from those events. And they actually end up netting typically in the 4-5 percent range.”
Rustin said, for example, that a casino night that generates revenues of $50,000 would only net the nonprofit between $2,500 and $5,000. The cost of renting a venue space, prizes, food and beverages and possibly alcohol, renting gaming equipment, and hiring staff to operate it all cut into the revenue generated by a casino night. Rustin said, “There’s really small net benefit for nonprofits to do these games.”
Of course, the individuals participating in the games might think they are giving money to the nonprofit when much of their “donations” are covering the costs of the event.
Rustin said, “In addition to that, there is a passing reference in the bill to game night vendors. These are for-profit companies that provide the gambling equipment and the staff to operate the games. Currently, if they reside in North Carolina and they provide these games and staff at game nights, they are operating illegally — they are violating state laws.”
On Tuesday, WRAL.com posted a story about the House Finance Committee’s debate over Boles’ bill. Boles told the committee, that his bill would bring clarity to actual situations. Boles said, “You all probably go to game nights at nonprofits where alcohol is served. That’s because your DA elects not to prosecute. In my community, our DA prosecutes.”
House Bill 511 would allow a tax-exempt organization to conduct a game night where games of chance are played and prizes are awarded by raffle at facilities serving alcoholic beverages. There are conditions attached to the bill.
The nonprofit must have operated continuously in the county for five years. Additionally, the nonprofit must obtain a permit from the State Alcohol Law Enforcement (ALE) Section or the ALE district office where the qualified facility is located. The application fee is $100 to ALE for each game night event.
The bill limits a nonprofit to no more than four game nights per year and no more than one per quarter. The maximum duration of each game night is five hours. No cash prizes can be awarded at a game night event. Prizes are awarded through a raffle. Participants may exchange chips, markers, or tokens from the game night event for raffle tickets.
The WRAL story reported that the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, told the committee that simply because the activity might be for a good cause does not make it any less a cause for concern.
Creech said, “Gambling in any form always causes social disruption and evil. When we add alcohol to the mix, we’re only greasing the wheels for these negative behaviors.”
Rustin said, “Our contention is not just focused on the alcohol, but it would be a significant expansion of legalized gambling in the state.”
One additional concern that Rustin pointed out is that the bill does not prohibit employers, trade associations or individuals in a private residence from holding gaming or casino nights, provided there is no cost to the attendees.
This is contrary, for example, to current state gambling statutes that prohibit individuals from being in possession of gambling tables, and to other existing gambling laws, also.
Rustin said, “This bill would basically undermine current gambling statutes that have been in existence for decades in North Carolina, especially the provision about employers, trade associations and private individuals.”
The bill may be heard by the full House next week.