AP: Bill legalizes gaming nights for nonprofits

Jun. 14, 2013 @ 03:33 PM

Nonprofit groups could host fundraisers in the style of a Las Vegas casino night under a bill in the North Carolina House.

The measure in the House Judiciary Committee would allow fundraisers to include poker, craps and other games at hotels, restaurants and other locations.

Charities, trade and union organizations, social welfare groups and others could apply for permits with North Carolina Alcohol Law Enforcement to host gaming nights that give out non-cash prizes. Nonprofits would be limited to four events per year, and facilities couldn't host more than two fundraisers per week.

Commercial and charitable bingo is legal in the state. Gambling is also legal at a Cherokee casino in the western part of the state and through the North Carolina lottery.

The bill is backed by the North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association as well as the NC Center for Nonprofits. They argue it provides thorough regulation for an activity that benefits both groups and already goes on in many parts of the state.

Christian and family-values organizations oppose the bill, saying it could lead to wider gambling and the social ills that come with it.

Whitney Christensen, a lobbyist for the restaurant and lodging group, said the bill helps clarify confusion among hotel owners about whether they can host events that are already in demand. She argued it tightly regulates the practice by including limits on the frequency of events and another provision that says expenses not related to food and beverages can't exceed 50 percent of event proceeds.

"We think these safeguards really make it a balanced bill," she said.

Christensen said the bill is scheduled for a committee debate Wednesday.

Rep. Tom Murry, R-Wake and a main sponsor of the bill, noted that the groups aren't handing out cash prizes.

"It's limited in time, scope and number, so I think it's another tool in the toolbox for these legitimate nonprofits to help raise money for good causes," he said.