December 19, 2014

Elyria
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Wellington Eagles club makes case to allow veterans groups to host video slots

Various state Veterans of Foreign Wars organizations stand to go out of business if video raffle machines are declared illegal, said Jim Donaldson, secretary of the Wellington Eagles.

“There are several in dire straits if we have to lose the machines,” he said.

The Wellington Eagles club has six of the machines, which remain in use until a court hearing in June to determine their legality. Members of the Wellington Eagles also are scheduled to testify in favor of the House Bill 325, legislation that would regulate the use of gaming machines by charitable organizations.

The testimony comes after the passage of House Bill 7, which effectively shut down most Internet cafes and sweepstakes parlors by banning cash awards from gaming machines and not allowing prizes of more than $10.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has argued that the cafes operated as illegal casinos because the games and prizes were unregulated.

Donaldson said the video raffle terminals used by the Wellington Eagles differ from machines used at Internet cafes in that the proceeds from the machines go toward operating costs and charity.

Since the club acquired the machines in the fall of 2011, half of the proceeds — about $50,000 — has been donated to the Ohio State Eagles Charity Fund Inc., which distributes money to various local organizations.

Andy 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.

Wellington Eagles successfully received a temporary restraining order against the Ohio attorney general and the Ohio Liquor Control Commission to continue operations until a ruling on the machines’ legality, Douglas said.

In March 2012, the Ohio Liquor Control Commission seized the machines and money at the business after receiving a tip of illegal gambling. Donaldson said the commission also seized machines at the Dayton Veterans of Foreign Wars Club.

The Wellington Eagles can continue using the six video raffle machines for now, but the organization can’t receive any more until a court ruling.

Contact Chelsea Miller at 329-7123 or cmiller@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @ChelseaMillerCT.