The Ohio Lottery’s plan to put their version of “next generation” electronic charitable raffle terminals in veterans and fraternal organizations posts and lodges has met with plenty of opposition from the OVFCC and other veterans and fraternal groups. Now, the charities that benefit from the OVFCC program are starting to weigh in.
The Executive Director of the Children’s Developmental Center in Amherst, Ohio recently sent a letter to the State Controlling Board opposing the Ohio Lottery’s plan because it only supports education in the state of Ohio, and not other important charities. Without the OVFCC program and Ohio House Bill 325, the Center may very well cease operations.
The Children’s Developmental Center is just one of many nonprofits that benefited from private clubs such as the Veterans and Elks that raised thousands of dollars for programs for special needs children, veterans, the hungry, the poor, and countless others that depend on the generosity of the members to help them serve their mission. The Children’s Developmental Center provides much needed therapy for children to help them prepare themselves for school, and without programs such as ours, these children may not receive the much needed therapy they need because the programs are losing funding from just about everywhere.
United Way is de-funding all individual programs in Lorain County by 2015. Medicaid has reduced therapy reimbursement for children by 50% starting January 2014. Private health insurance companies continue to increase co-pays and deductibles while at the same time reducing and limiting the services they will cover. Families are being asked to ‘share’ the cost of health care at the expense of being able to afford it!
The Lottery’s focus is to help education. Well and good, but there are hundreds of nonprofits that help the individuals before, during, and after they are in school. Please allow these private clubs to continue to provide a source of entertainment to their members while at the same time creating a funding stream for nonprofits that will allow them to help the people they have identified.
Thank you for your time and consideration,
Thomas W. Miller
Helping veterans and fraternal groups is the mission of the OVFCC, but almost as important is helping raise funds for the different charitable organizations supported by veterans and fraternal groups in Ohio. While the Lottery’s plan will certainly benefit the worthy cause of education, it might do so at the expense of schools, hospitals, youth organizations and some of the other 400-plus charities that receive funds as a result of the OVFCC program.
The simplest solution: the Ohio Legislature should pass Ohio House Bill 325, clarify the law in the state, and allow everyone, not just the Lottery, not just the Lottery’s foreign vendor, and not just education, to benefit.
In an article published today in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, it was revealed that the Ohio Lottery will ask the state’s Controlling Board to adjust Lottery spending in order to purchase so-called “next generation” gaming consoles for sale to veterans and fraternal groups. While the Controlling Board is expected to OK that increase, the next steps for every party involved grows increasingly cloudy in the eyes of many.
The lottery’s proposed machines have been vehemently opposed by many veterans and fraternal groups, and categorically opposed by the Ohio Veterans and Fraternal Charitable Coalition (OVFCC) due to the fact that the charitable spilt between the parties will give little help to veterans and fraternal organizations struggling to keep their doors open in these tough economic times. Complicating the matter is the opposition from Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, historically an advocate and supporter of veterans, who deems the current machines in violation of Ohio law.
That’s where things start to get cloudy.
Despite the Lottery’s proposal, and the Attorney General’s stance on machines, veterans and fraternal groups are in favor of keeping the current OVFCC machines in their lodges and post locations. So much so that the groups successfully sued DeWine to keep the status quo. From the Plain Dealer
DeWine contends that the electronic raffle machines currently used at veterans posts and fraternal lodges operate like illegal slot machines. Last fall, he ordered the veterans and fraternal groups to turn off the machines or face prosecution, a sticky proposition for a veterans friendly politician seeking re-election.
In December, the Ohio Veterans and Fraternal Charitable Coalition, which represents 1,700 posts and lodges, hired former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Andrew Douglas to sue DeWine’s office. The coalition won a court order blocking any action by DeWine or the Ohio Liquor Control Department, which could initiate enforcement action against veterans and fraternal organizations authorized to sell alcohol.
While the Ohio House of Representatives continues debate on Ohio House Bill 325, a bill clarifying current charitable gaming law, many OVFCC members will continue to use the machines that former Justice Douglas has deemed to be “clearly not ‘strictly prohibited’”.
Stay tuned to the OVFCC website and blog for updates on where the story goes from here.
A recent report from The Verge indicates that VFW dot Org has recently been the target of a Chinese malware attack. The attack was aimed at getting US Military Personnel information. The user, upon visiting the website, would likey have no idea that their computer systems were under attack:
Using a tactic known as a watering-hole attack, the group used a previously unpublished exploit in Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 10 to seed malware onto computers visiting VFW.org through an open iFrame window in the background. “Based on the targeting preferences, we suspect the attacker was looking for intelligence located on US military personnels’ systems,” said FireEye’s Darien Kindlund. If the visitor had any sensitive information elsewhere on their computer, that data would be exposed to the attackers.
If you frequently visit the VFW Website, please be aware of this technology threat. And stay tuned to the OVFCC blog for updates on when the problem will be fixed.
One of the most important factors in Ohio House Bill 325, the bill that would clarify electronic charitable gaming in Ohio, is what these machines mean to the veterans and fraternal organizations that use them. In fact, many proponents of HB 325 claim that shutting down the machines will only serve to shut the doors at the posts and locations for good.
One location that could be affected in such a way is the Wellington Eagles Club. The club, which has six OVFCC machines, fears that without their continued use their club and others will be in “dire straits”, according to the Elyria Chronicle-Telegram. While the club was recently raided by the Ohio Liquor Control Commission, a successfully filed temporary restraining order has returned the machines to the club, which has raised over $50,000 for charities since 2011.
HB325 seeks to clarify current law, but former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Andy Douglas maintains that the machines were seized in error, as they should be considered legal in Ohio under the revised code:
Douglas, attorney for fraternal and veterans organizations including the Wellington Eagles, said the machines are also different from those at Internet cafes because they issue tickets to the game player, and the tickets are placed into a pool. Douglas contends that Wellington Eagles gaming terminals are legal under Ohio Revised Code 2915.092, which regulates raffles conducted by charitable organizations.
By definition, Wellington Eagles is considered a charitable organization because it donates more than half of its proceeds to charity, he said.
Hopefully, with the passage of HB 325, clubs like the Wellington Eagles won’t have to win court battles to continue their generous charity efforts.
Following yesterday’s opening sponsor testimony on HB 325, The Columbus Dispatch reports that the legislation currently before the Ohio House of Representatives would make the preferred method of fundraising for veterans and fraternal groups legal in the state, allowing organizations to keep their doors open.
The legislation, which is currently moving through the Ohio House, still needs to go through proponent and opponent testimony, before being voted on, sent to the Ohio Senate and then to the desk of Ohio Governor John Kasich.
Yesterday’s opening testimony, which included a packed committee room of supporters of HB 325, is the first step in making electronic charitable gaming legal for veterans and fraternal groups across the state, as mentioned in today’s Dispatch article on yesterday’s testimony:
Veterans and fraternal groups are engaged in an ongoing fight over their ability to run electronic gaming machines. They packed a House committee room, and many are eager to return to testify in favor of House Bill 325.
On Oct. 16, Attorney General Mike DeWine ordered members of the Ohio Veterans and Fraternal Charitable Coalition to stop operating what he says are illegal slot machines. In December, Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Laurel Beatty granted a temporary restraining order allowing the machines to remain operational.
In November, veterans posts and fraternal lodges rejected an Ohio Lottery Commission offer to place 1,200 electronic gaming machines in their establishments. The six statewide groups argued that the deal would not provide them enough to cover operating costs and charity payments.
Veterans pack the house for Sponsor Testimony on HB325
The introduction of House Bill 325 in the Ohio Legislature marked an important first step for Veterans and Fraternal Organizations, who seek to clarify existing law regarding electronic charitable gaming. Since the Bill was introduced by Representative Rick Perales (R-Beavercreek), the next step was to hear testimony from sponsors, proponents and opponents of the Bill.
The first of those testimonies began today at the Ohio Statehouse.
Before a packed room of veterans and fraternal organization members, Representative Perales delivered his supportive testimony in favor of HB 325. While there are still many things that must happen before the Bill eventually ends up on Governor John Kasich’s desk, this is an important first step. Representative Perales’s testimony is presented below.
The OVFCC applauds Representative Perales and all supporters of HB 325. Please stay tuned to this space for all information about HB 325 and the OVFCC.
HB 325 Sponsor Testimony
Representative Rick Perales
Ohio House Policy & Legislative Oversight Committee
Feb. 11, 2014
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and members of the committee, for the opportunity to present House Bill 325.
Veterans and fraternal organizations in this state play a vital role in our communities. They provide a place of community for our returning warriors, they help veterans in need of a hand, and they support local charities that are so vital to people of this state. These organizations help homeless veterans pay for housing; they pay for furniture and appliances for families of active duty men and women who need a little help to make ends meet; they pay for burial costs of veterans and family members who can’t afford it; they build decks and wheelchair ramps for disabled veterans so they enjoy the simple pleasure of spending time outside and breathing fresh air; and they help fund veterans affairs claims agents who literally help bring hundreds of millions of dollars back to Ohio’s veterans in the way of federal grants. They help children with learning and developmental disabilities. And all this doesn’t even begin to describe all of the work they do in our communities.
For years veterans and fraternal organizations have been permitted by Ohio law to raise funds to support their organizations and local charities through paper forms of bingo. However, as technology has improved and video gaming is become prevalent in Ohio, many of these organizations are struggling to survive with a diminished interest in paper forms of bingo. A number of posts in this state have been forced to close and many are in immediate danger of closing. Several posts in this state currently have their properties up for sale because they are unable to generate enough revenue to support their organizations….all because they have been unable to keep up to date with more modern and entertaining forms of charitable gaming.
House Bill 325 would fix this problem by simply allowing veterans and fraternal organizations to play the same forms of bingo they already play, but in a more entertaining video format, called “charitable video bingo.”
The Attorney General already regulates paper forms of charitable gaming. House Bill 325 has been approved by the Attorney General from a regulatory perspective. It gives the Attorney General authority over a centralized “Report Management System” which runs the entire gaming system and maintains all financial data, and requires all gaming devices and terminals to interface with the system. This will ensure all funds are tracked and accounted for in a transparent way. This will also ensure that charitable contributions are made to designated 501c3 charities.
The bill also gives the Attorney General the authority to license multiple vendors based on stringent criteria and requires video gaming supplies to be tested by a laboratory certified by the Ohio Casino Control Commission and the Ohio Lottery Commission.
And finally, the bill sets limits on the number of video gaming terminals allowed per location based upon membership.
House Bill 325 would give veterans and fraternals a legal, accountable, transparent and charitable mechanism to continue raining funds and providing the great service to our communities.
I encourage all of my colleagues on this committee to support HB 325.