AUGUSTA, Maine — A pair of Maine lawmakers are putting forward a last-minute fix for a gambling rule change that led veterans clubs to fear for their future with just under two weeks until lawmakers leave the State House for the year.
The changes to rules governing pull-tab gaming, a major source of revenue for fraternal organizations like the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Elks and Eagles that run bars and social events, would prevent them from posting prizes that have been won during games and stopping a game before a pack of tickets has been fully played out.
The Maine Gambling Control Unit finalized the rule changes in March, but several clubs were caught by surprise when the state sent out a notice last week. The state says the changes were needed to make the games more fair, but organizations who run the games say people will lose interest in games if the prizes are not posted and they cannot cycle through games at will.
Members of the Legislature’s gaming committee are trying to reverse the situation by amending an existing gaming bill that was tabled this week as lawmakers on the panel debated how to handle the new changes. This was chosen as the easiest path to do so.
“We’re basically going to have the Gambling Control Unit take those rules back,” said Sen. Brad Farrin of Norridgewock, the lead Republican senator on the gaming panel and a VFW member who retired in 2013 as the highest-ranking airman in the Maine National Guard.
Farrin said he is working on the proposal with Sen. Craig Hickman, D-Winthrop, who co-chairs the committee. Hickman did not respond to a request for comment.
Milton Champion, the director of the Maine Gambling Control Unit, has said he is planning to revisit the recent rule change this week, although he has not said what will be revised. Champion said he had not heard of the lawmakers’ efforts and declined to comment until he sees the language.
But Farrin said lawmakers could not wait to see what those changes are because lawmakers are close to leaving Augusta for the year and because of the outcry from certain. He said he expected to speak with the rest of the gaming committee soon to discuss potential language.
“This is the typical [process] of making rules and not understanding the unintended consequences,” he said.