I was asked by a couple of folks in Lansing to testify in support of SB 878(Jones) that is currently before the Michigan House Committee on Regulatory Reform.  The bill would restore common sense regulation of charitable gaming in the state.  I wrote this testimony last night, with the help of my friend Angela Clock (who is working on the issue on behalf of the Michigan Jaycees).

Here’s what I said:

Good Morning Mr. Chairman and members of the committee. My name is David Worthams and while you are used to seeing me testify on behalf of Michigan financial institutions, today I come before you as the 87th Past State President and a Life Member of the Michigan Junior Chamber.

Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, a couple weeks back we heard a large amount of testimony from the Gaming Control Board regarding the problems that charitable millionaire parties are causing in Michigan. We’ve heard that the respective charities are either lazy or are part of a racket. We’ve heard that our arguments are personal attacks on the Director and his staff and are not indicative of the necessity the current structure of charitable (prior to the adoption of these rules).

Let me say very clearly, the Director and his are honorable people, just like the members of this committee are honorable people, just like those of us who are members of charities throughout Michigan.

I come here as a representative of the Michigan Junior Chamber, a leadership organization of young adults on both sides of the bridge aged 21 – 40. In our 90 year history, our chapters have used the Bingo Act and charitable gaming to raise funds not only for our operations but for the building of parks that beautify our state, the purchasing of shoes for poor children, the acquisition of school supplies for low income students, and many other things that improve the quality of life of the people of Michigan. We do these things not because we look to prove we are honorable people, but because we want to learn how to provide these things so we are ready when you and your colleagues reach your term limits and have to turn over the keys to the next generation.

There are three things today that I wish to point out to you as major concerns with the current rules that Sen. Jones’ bill will address. Firstly, the importance of the role of the legislature. This is something that Senator Pappageorge pointed out and Senator Bert Johnson remarked to me personally about during the second JCAR hearing on the rules. If the Act is not sufficient to protect the interests of the citizens of Michigan, it is the proper role of the Legislature – not the administration, to create policies to address those shortcomings.

Now, the Director (an honorable man) will tell you that the Legislature has failed to Act and he must react to the silence because rackets are growing and safety is compromised. But what if the silence of the Legislature has been misinterpreted? What if the legislative silence is consent for charitable gaming? In fact, to my knowledge (and I’ll be glad to be corrected by the Minority Vice Chair if my memory is lacking) there have three bills introduced or drafted to allow for charitable gaming. There have been no bills to eliminate gaming as these rules are seeking to do. The bills drafted are looking to update the Bingo Act to reflect current practice … and updating the Act is something we believe needs to be addressed by the proper authority. It needs to be addressed by the you, the Legislature.

The Director will suggest that the rules won’t eliminate gaming, but I disagree. The rules are designed to increase the difficulty a charity has in order to run a charitable gaming room. 3 people must be on site according to the rules. What are the 3 people to do? In many cases, if there are multiple people standing around, twiddling their thumbs … safety and security is not increased because people will trip over themselves looking for something to do. In addition, many of our Jaycee chapters are small, consisting of less than 30 people who are professionals and have jobs. It will be difficult for small charities to meet the requirement of 3 people. While we are grateful that the requirement was decreased over the rule making process, it is still highly difficult.

Lastly, language in the current rules is very broad when it comes to the discretion of the Director in approving or denying licenses. This makes sense, considering the rules were written by the Director. The current Director may have an internal policy that says “We’ll approve everything.” What happens when a new Director is appointed by a different administration and decides “Enough is enough” will be the new policy? This will harm the charities who filling in those gaps that the state government has not been able to.

On behalf of the Michigan Junior Chamber, I ask that you continue to be the honorable people that you are. Support Sen. Jones’ bill and allow charities of all sizes throughout this state the ability to continue serving the people of this state.