Charity-sponsored casino gambling growing fast

Associated Press
February 2009

DETROIT - Michigan has at least one fast-growing industry – charity-sponsored casino-style gambling. Some state officials say there needs to be tighter control.

The Michigan Lottery reports it issued 681 Millionaire Party licenses for casino style gambling games in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2004. That grew to 4,043 in fiscal 2008.

The casino-style games earned Michigan charities $3.6 million in fiscal 2004 and $10.5 million in fiscal 2008.

Overall, all forms of charitable gambling in Michigan took in $479.9 million in fiscal 2008, and $75.1 million in profits went to charities.

Michigan Gaming Control Board Executive Director Rick Kalm said the board formed a task force about six months ago to look at issues surrounding charity-sponsored gambling.

Concerns include advertising of the events, which under state rules can be done only by the licensed charities, not by the venue or facilitator, Kalm told the Detroit Free Press.

“There’s not a problem with charitable gaming if it’s run the way it was designed to run,” he said. “We think that it’s getting a little out of control.”

The gambling control board regulates Detroit’s three licensed casinos.

A sign of the growth in the business is a posting found on the Michigan Lottery’s Web site:

“Due to the unprecedented number of license applications we are receiving, allow at least 6 weeks for the processing of applications or a change request to a license.”

Casino-style charity gambling events are now being held in more than 120 establishments statewide, said Tom Reich, a director in the Michigan Lottery’s Charitable Gaming Division.

Casinos are unhappy about the growth, and some legislators say charity gambling needs tighter rules.

“I think that we can’t be seen in our community as having a mini-casino or a part-time casino,” said state Rep. Tom McMillin, R-Rochester Hills.

He proposes legislation to limit venues to one, four-day charitable gambling event per month.

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