Rules regulating gaming at church picnics need to loosen

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By The Staff

Area church picnics will be coming up soon, and a bill currently working its way through the Indiana General Assembly could partially decide how much money they make.

SB 414 has passed the senate and passed 8-0 in the House Public Policy Committee. It should go to the full house of representatives for a vote soon.

Dennie Oxley, who represents part of Perry County, is one of the cosponsors of the bill, which would remove some of the restrictions now limiting parish festivals.

Under current law, if an individual works at a church festival he may not participate in any of the festival’s games. SB 414 would change that.

Obviously someone who is spinning a wheel for a gambling game or calling the numbers for a bingo game shouldn’t be allowed to participate in that game while he’s working it.

But why shouldn’t someone who works at a paddle wheel game later be allowed to play bingo? Or vice versa?

Rep. Mark Messmer, a member of Holy Family Parish in Jasper, told Brigid Curtis Ayer of The Criterion, “We have over half the parish working the event, and a smaller parish might have everyone working the event. Legally no one can participate if they are working.”

Rep. Matt Bell said every parish in the Evansville Diocese saw “probably between 5 to 10 percent minimum income reductions” because of the current rule enacted by the Indiana Gaming Commission before 2008 festivals. He also said parish festivals are losing workers because some people would rather participate in the games.

We think SB 414 should definitely be enacted into law, but we would go even further than that. We would also remove the current silly restriction that bans minors from playing bingo for low stakes at such events.

Janet Damin, chairwoman of St. Paul Church picnic, said that law has “hurt a lot of church picnics. Children can’t even go in with their parents or grandparents and play bingo.” She said a lot of adults also no longer play “because they have children or grandchildren to take care of.”

We would also repeal the law requiring charitable organizations to obtain a gaming permit just to hold a raffle for cash or even a quilt.

Damin said the cost of that permit for St. Paul went up from $200 to $300 last year. The cost is based on how much money the charitable organization made at the previous year’s event.

We see no reason why a gaming permit should be required for a charitable organization’s once-a-year event in which all the prizes — including cash — are donated.