AUGUSTA — The Maine House gave final approval Wednesday to a bill to let veterans groups and charitable fraternal organizations raise money by operating as many as five slot machines in their posts and lodges.

The vote was 88-57, with a final Senate vote pending. The Senate passed the bill 19-14 on Monday, and the legislation is expected to earn final passage, said key senators.

Gov. Paul LePage has not yet taken a position on the bill, said his spokeswoman, Adrienne Bennett.

Supporters of the bill, including Donald Simoneau of the American Legion in Livermore Falls, said the machines would help the groups bring in needed money. For 20 years, he has lobbied the Legislature to allow the groups to operate gaming machines.

“This gives some posts and some of the groups an opportunity to survive,” Simoneau said.

He said the bill includes such high costs that probably only about 20 of the 175 American Legion posts in Maine would be able to afford to get slot machines.

The legislation would also allow the machines at fraternal organizations such as the Eagles and Elks.

To operate slots, groups would have to:

Have a cash reserve of $2,000 for each machine.

Pay a $5,000 refundable deposit to the state Gambling Control Board.

Pay an initial application fee of $1,000. Applications would be accepted by the state as of Oct. 1, 2013.

The bill would cap the total number of slot machines at 250 statewide.

Ten percent of the net revenue from the machines would to go to the Gambling Control Board to cover administrative costs; 8 percent would go to the state’s general fund; 10 percent would go to the host municipalities; and 2 percent would go to gambling addiction prevention and treatment.

The Christian Civic League of Maine urged legislators to reject the bill, L.D. 1469, because it would expand gambling in Maine. In an email blast sent Wednesday morning, the league said that voters have not approved the concept and neither should lawmakers.

“This is not a veterans’ bill and legislators should not wrap the American flag around slot machines,” the group wrote.

Just before the final House vote, Rep. David Johnson, R-Eddington, said that he’s a veteran who has concerns about more gambling.

“I think it’s time we step back,” he said. “This is a large attempt to increase gambling in the state of Maine.”

 

State House Writer Susan Cover can be called at 620-7015 or at:

[email protected]

 


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