LansingRep. Jeff Farrington and the Michigan Gaming Control Board have reached a deal on tightening charitable gambling rules that will end his efforts to enact new legislation, the two sides announced Friday.
The board will ease off proposed rules that Farrington, R-Utica, said virtually promised to end charitable gaming in Michigan, but still more-strictly regulate poker rooms and other forms of gambling used to raise money for charities, according to a joint announcement.
“If you’re picking winners and losers (in the agreement), the larger poker rooms are the losers, but my focus has always been on helping the charities,” Farrington told The Detroit News on Friday. “They were trying to shut them down.”
Farrington said the compromise results from two months of talks between him and the board. He said he will drop legislation to counteract the state board’s administrative rules that drew howls of protest from hundreds of charitable gaming organizers.
The board proposed strict new rules for charitable poker games or “millionaire parties” in November while noting poker chip sales grew to $530 million in 2010-2012, up from $22 million in the 2002-2004 period. There had been “numerous instances of fraud and corruption,” leading to suspension or prohibition of gaming at 20 locations in the last three years, the board said.
Farrington introduced a bill he said would counter the stricter regulatory approach, expand many existing rules and practices for charitable poker, and secure its role as a source of revenue to charitable and nonprofit groups. Gov. Rick Snyder opposed the bill.
“Gaming Control clearly has a problem with the way some of these poker rooms are operating and I agree that they have to do something to fix the problem,” Farrington said in a statement released with Friday’s announcement. “I just think that their proposed solution went too far.”
Major elements of the compromise include:
■Up to four nights of poker per week, or 208 nights per year, will be allowed at each location. The state gaming board initially proposed a 30-nights limit but later had agreed to raise it to 120.
■The number of workers from the charitable organization required to be present to manager a poker game will be three, down from the board’s proposed five.
■The state gaming board will be able to permit millionaire parties at nearly any location in the state, including bars, churches, schools, fraternal halls and community centers. Current rules allow them at fewer than 40 recurring locations across Michigan, resulting in even some large-population counties having only one or two such places.
■The board will allow more licensed suppliers of dealers, tables and equipment to help charities run their games. Currently, 30 suppliers are licensed to do so.
Gaming Control Board Executive Director Rick Kalm said the board’s goal has been “to insure the integrity of these games by making the charities more accountable for their operation, and to make sure only those persons licensed provide equipment or assist charities in running their event. These rules will still accomplish that goal.”
The board plans to complete its rules package later this month and submit it to the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, according to the announcement. The committee then has up to 15 legislative session days to act on them.