Legislation Needed To Help Veterans' And Fraternal Organizations
By Rep. Rick Perales (R-Beavercreek)
November 04, 2013
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Most of my fellow Ohioans are probably unaware that the hundreds of VFW halls, American Legion Posts, and Elks, Eagles and Moose lodges in virtually every medium and large community in Ohio are much more than just places for veterans and friends to meet and socialize.

In reality, these halls and lodges are the heart and soul of communities throughout the great state of Ohio, gathering spots for thousands of veterans and friends who are dedicated to raising money and distributing it to veterans in dire need of assistance as well as to local charities that are struggling to keep a social safety net in place in their hometowns.

For many years, the members of these organizations raised funds in a variety of ways, including paper bingo, but the old-fashioned paper games became less popular as casinos and other more sophisticated gaming options entered the state. To keep charitable funds flowing, these posts and lodges adopted video gaming just over two years ago. The result has been a godsend.

Since 2011, these Ohio veterans’ and fraternal organizations have raised more than $5.5 million for their posts and lodges, for veterans' assistance, and for distribution to 400 charities across the state. However, this charitable funding is now in immediate jeopardy – along with the ability of many of these lodges and posts to remain open. The problem is an interpretation of state law that says these video machines are illegal under Ohio's revised gaming laws.

That's why I have introduced House Bill 325, which would legalize these charitable programs, would require open records regarding the raising of the revenue and its use, and would continue to give the state Attorney General oversight. Without this legislation, programs such as the furniture bank at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, which helps veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan get household appliances they desperately need, would end. Veterans struggling to readjust to civilian life and needing help with mortgage and car payments would be out of luck. “Stand Down” events that help homeless veterans with medical care, haircuts, clothing, sleeping bags and other essentials could be gone.

In addition, these lodges and posts would no longer have the funds to donate to some 400 charities across Ohio, including such organizations as Ronald McDonald House, the Second Harvest Foodbank, and the American Red Cross. It's unfortunate that uncertainty about the legality of these programs has arisen, and I urge all Ohioans to contact their representatives in Columbus and urge them to act quickly to save these cherished gathering spots that are so instrumental in raising and making charitable donations that assist our veterans in our communities.

There has been some discussion, probably well intended, to simply allow the Ohio Lottery to place its machines in the lodges and posts. However, that in no way solves the problem since a large portion of current charity revenues would go to the Lottery and thus would not be available for veterans' programs or charitable contributions.

I am very fortunate to have many current military members and veterans in my home area, so I have seen on a large scale the good works that are done. But the reality is that every community in Ohio has veterans needing assistance and charities needing help, and these organizations should be applauded for rising to the occasion and assisting fellow Ohioans.

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