Public Comments for 02/16/2021 General Laws - ABC/Gaming Subcommittee
SB1127 - Charitable gaming; conduct of instant bingo, network bingo, pull tabs, and seal cards.
Last Name: Mayer Organization: NR Warriors Baseball Club Locality: Suffolk

We have used bingo for years to support the Nansemond River High School Baseball program to fund field enhancements and maintenance, fall uniforms, the purchase of training equipment, fund the varsity program’s spring break tournament fees and most importantly, providing scholarships for graduating baseball players . I support this bill in its amended form because it includes Youth sports. There remains an area of concern fir the charities I represent. It deal with the geographic restrictions on small organizations like ours. The bill in its current form would provide preferential treatment to charities located near bingo halls that have higher gross revenues. This would have a disproportionate impact on my charities impacting their mission. I would recommend strong consideration of this concern by either redrafting that wording or delaying the bill in favor of a study to understand the impact. Again, the money raised through charitable gaming is our lifeblood and provides opportunities for many kids that may not never have the chance otherwise.

Last Name: Zajur Organization: Virginia Hispanic Foundation Locality: Richmond, VA

Honorable Members of the General Assembly: Please be informed that the Virginia Hispanic Foundation (Foundation), the educational and non-profit subsidiary of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, staunchly opposes Senate Bill number 1127 as it is currently written. Virginia Hispanic Foundation has been working with Virginia Union University , under an organization known as the Virginia Hispanic African American Alliance, for over a year. This alliance was created to educate and promote in the workforce students who are considered socially and economically disadvantaged. One of the primary mechanisms we use to raise funds and support these students in their educational journey are the proceeds of charitable gaming. Charitable gaming has positively affected our student base who are disadvantaged and an important sector of our economy. The Virginia Hispanic Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profits as regulated by the IRS. Further because our entity is considered private we do not enjoy the benefit of receiving funds from the Virginia Lottery. As such, charitable gaming is a mechanism of at least attempting to bridge this disparity gap which has plagued our community for many generations. Because our institution and our Hispanic community have a stake in this legislation we strongly object to being excluded from participating in the drafting of this legislation. Secondly, we oppose this legislation because, while it attempts to include our community into the equation, it does so in a very limited way, by precluding charitable gaming for our institution throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia. Currently the legislation as introduced allows our institution to engage in charitable gaming within the jurisdiction and adjacent jurisdictions in which our principle office is located. This is another example of the disparity placed upon our institution. The Virginia Lottery is allowed to serve the entire Commonwealth of Virginia for its public institutions of higher learning. Yet, our institution, who have students throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia, are limited to a mere couple of counties. If the ABC/Gaming Subcommittee as well as the General Laws Committee believe that better control or reform of the charitable gaming should be implemented, then we support you wholeheartedly. However, it is not reform to deny a significant segment of our community, such as Hispanic Foundation, the opportunity to participate in the drafting of legislation that impacts socially and economically disadvantaged students who are a strong and vibrant voting segment our community. As such we strongly oppose this legislation as currently drafted.

Last Name: Lucas Organization: Virginia Union University Locality: Richmond, VA

Honorable Members of the General Assembly: Please be informed that Virginia Union University (Union) staunchly opposes Senate Bill number 1127 as it is currently written. Virginia Union University has been working with the Virginia Hispanic Foundation, under an organization known as the Virginia Hispanic African American Alliance for over a year. This alliance was created to educate and promote in the workforce students who are considered socially and economically disadvantaged. One of the primary mechanisms we use to raise funds and support these students in their educational journey are the proceeds of charitable gaming. Charitable gaming has positively affected our student base who are disadvantaged and an important sector of our economy. Virginia Union University is a 501(c)(3) non-profit as regulated by the IRS. Further because this entity is considered private, we do not enjoy the benefit of receiving funds from the Virginia Lottery. As such, charitable gaming is a mechanism of at least attempting to bridge this disparity gap which has plagued our community for many generations. Because our institution and our community has a stake in this legislation we strongly object to being excluded from participating in the drafting of this legislation. Secondly, we oppose this legislation because, while it attempts to include our community into the equation, it does so in a very limited way, by precluding charitable gaming for our institution throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia. Currently the legislation as introduced allows our institution to engage in charitable gaming within the jurisdiction and adjacent jurisdictions in which our principle office is located. This is another example of the disparity placed upon our institution. The Virginia Lottery is allowed to serve the entire Commonwealth of Virginia for its public institutions of higher learning. Yet, our institution, who has students throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia is limited to a mere couple of counties. Virginia Union University was founded in 1875 and took its present name in 1899. It has educated students from all walks of life and from the vast majority of the counties in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Union’s history in conjunction with our alliance with the Foundation demands an acknowledgement of the breath of our voter base. As such, please be placed on notice of our concern regarding this legislation. If the ABC/Gaming Subcommittee as well as the General Laws Committee believe that better control or reform of the charitable gaming should be implemented, then we support you wholeheartedly. However, it is not reform to deny a significant segment of our community, such as Union and the Foundation, the opportunity to participate in the drafting of legislation that impacts socially and economically disadvantaged students who are a strong and vibrant voting segment our community. As such we strongly oppose this legislation as currently drafted.

Last Name: Goin Locality: MIDLOTHIAN, VA

Bill SB1127 will kill hundreds of jobs directly in Charities all over the commonwealth, by making it impossible for charities to be able to raise any amount of funds using the charitable gaming system. Food banks will not get the resources they need, in a time when they need it most, Students will no longer be able to get scholarships, and thats just the tip of the iceberg if this thing passes. Mr Reeves, kept moving the target in his amendments, and what for may I ask ? There is no need to for this Bill, and it is purely being forced through the assembly to hurt charities for nefarious reasons in a time they need more support and help, not less. During the committee session of 1-27-2021 Mr Reeves time and again argued "facts" that had no basis in reality. He time and again misrepresented charitable gaming and the electric pull tab machines, or was completely ignorant of exactly what his bill was for and how it would work. This from a Senator is supposedly understands the system.. So what he says in committee were either bold faced obfuscation of the truth, or he is ignorant of the laws and the facts in which he is basing his Bills merits. Case in point he kept insisting the machines "paid no taxes" and "have no oversight". When the truth of the matter is the Charities get taxed based on TOTAL GROSS INCOME as a WHOLE of ALL Games. GAME MACHINES INCLUDED. Virginia Charities pay MORE Taxes per dollar than Rosies, or the Skilled Gaming machines. As for oversight. The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services does have oversight and he is reworking the laws that oversees them. That is fundamentally part of SB1127. So that right there is pure obfuscation of the truth. He also should be fully aware that DAGCS gets quarterly and annual reports from the Charities and pays the audit fees ( additional taxes ) on the GROSS Sales not the NET. As he even mentioned in his comments that he talked to DAGCS when formulating this bill. Consider that Mr Reeves received the most donations from Queen of Virginia Skills & Entertainment LLC and POM of VA LLC ( Manufacturer of QoVA MACHINES ) of any assembly member, Senate or House, during the period of 2019 to 2020. $5,000 1/4/2019 $5,000 5/20/2019 $5,000 1/2/2020 $5,000 9/15/2020 Thats $20,000 from the maker and operators of the skilled gaming machines that are in convenience stores across the commonwealth, whose direct competition is of course, Charitable gaming. So why this bill ? Lets look at who benefits from killing all the mom and pop bingo halls, VFWs, FOPs, and all the small local charities that rely on this income ? Queen of Virginia LLC So lets not kill the one income stream many of these charities have. It would kill the charities and destroy the jobs of Virginians across the Commonwealth that are employed by these non-profits. This Bill should die here as it serves no purpose, other than to benefit Mr Reeves' patrons.

Last Name: Guevara Locality: Louisa County and Wise County

As both an environmental science student and a concerned citizen, I ask that you consider stopping or at least rewording SB1127 to exclude conservation organizations. As proposed, it would severely impact nonprofit organizations such as the Cave Conservancy of Virginia (CCV), whose efforts and donations go to far more than just supporting, researching, and protecting the fragile and unique karst systems in our state that provide sources of drinking water and are home to several unique and endangered species. The CCV also supports other worthy causes that the local communities depend on, including local schools, landowner support, and even recreation. Please, for the sake of all those who live, learn, and rely on these incredibly environmentally important areas, reconsider this bill and its wording.

Last Name: Ahn Organization: Holston High School Karst Club Locality: Damascus

I am a teacher and sponsor of the Karst Club - a club that exposes young people to the wonders beneath our feet in the caves and karst areas of our area. I am very concerned about SB1127 because of the funding loss to organizations like the Cave Conservancy of the Virginias who have supported people like me. CCV members have helped me on numerous educational trips underground with students and have provided the guidance and safety needed to open up whole worlds to my students. Please seek a way to allow conservation organizations like the CCV to continue their very good work in Virginia.

Last Name: Lachniet Locality: Washington County

Senate Bill 1127 would eliminate the ability of nonprofit conservation groups to raise funds through charitable bingo operations, something that has been legal and well-regulated in Virginia for many years. I am on the board of one such organization, the Cave Conservancy of the Virginias, but I am writing today not on their behalf, but as private citizen and longtime Virginia caver deeply concerned about cave and karst conservation in the Commonwealth. Please consider defeating this bill, or amending it to allow conservation organizations continued access to this vital funding source (perhaps using language similar to the provisions that reference volunteer fire departments and sports organizations). Organizations like CCV have provided critical support for local karst research and conservation efforts throughout the state. In particular, CCV has awarded over $1 million in grants since 1980, and has worked closely with state agencies including the Virginia Cave Board and Department of Conservation and Recreation.

Last Name: Britton Organization: Conservation Locality: Hanover

I have had the rare privilege of working with several charitable non- profit 501-C3 conservation organizations over the last 40 years. I have had first hand knowledge of all the incredible work that these organization do for our State.. It is absolutely inconceivable to me that anyone would even consider sponsoring a bill that has eliminated the ability for conservation groups to participate in charitable gaming to raise funds. The state of Virginia does not have enough funds in their current budget to even come close to filling the void that would be created by such a drastic measure.. Most of our conservation groups here in Virginia have worked closely with local and State government to help protect some of our most important resources. Virginia is one of the most diverse and beautiful places on this planet earth and it takes a lot to keep it that way. Let’s not do anything that will mess it up by passing a bill like this. I hope it was just an oversight by someone who just forgot to include conservation organizations when they wrote this bill.

Last Name: Brown Organization: Concerned citizen Locality: Wise

As worded, Senate Bill 1127 would eliminate the ability for not-for-profit conservation organizations to raise funds through charitable gaming (Bingo). In my experience, Bingo games are already highly-regulated and tightly-run. Charitable gaming raises irreplaceable funding to support rural and low-income communities in the form of grants to restore and conserve natural resources, such as rivers, vistas, wildlife habitat, and caves, as well as public awareness, education, and engagement of our youth. Without charitable gaming, most of these grass-roots level 501(c)3 organizations will suddenly be unable to fulfill their missions. Please table or defeat this bill to ensure that conservation charities can continue to generate funds to support community-based projects that improve the natural wealth of our Commons!

Last Name: Maus Locality: Montgomery

SB1127 - excludes many 501(c) organizations that depend or could depend on charitable gaming as a funding means. I am specifically concern about conservation groups but on the reading one can imagine many omitted categories and then I am sure there are more. Leave the current program alone. It has been worked through for years and seems to be working well. thank you for your service, Charles Maus

Last Name: Riley Organization: Bedford Moose 1897, WOTM 1005 Locality: Bedford

Virginia charities are counting on you and your colleagues to say no. This bill has been submitted as a way to regulate charitable gaming, but there are major flaws with it. First, VDACS already regulates charitable gaming. Secondly, it requires nonprofit fraternals to obtain a license from VDACS. This in itself is not a problem, the problem is that under the license, the charity is required to show 10% charitable use of proceeds. Also, not a problem unless one understands what this really means. The 10% charitable use of proceeds is calculated from gross ticket sales, which exceeds cash purchases 100% of the time. With electronic pull tabs, the player wins free games and plays their winnings back in the game. This creates a large difference between the actual cash generated and gross ticket sales. I know it’s confusing, so here is a real life example: cash in (actual money feed into the machine) is $4800. The cash out (winnings collected by the players) is $3900. The difference in those two numbers is the profit, or “net amount” which is then shared 50/50 between the nonprofit fraternal and the game company. This amount is $900, or $450 each. Now, the actual gross ticket sales is $13,100. This is again due to free games and winnings played instead of cashed out. The problem is that 10% of this number is $1,310! The charity only made $450, but now has to outlay $1,310 in charitable donations. The end result is that this bill in its current form, kills charitable gaming. One example is at the Bedford Moose Lodge. The funds they raise are used to support the annual Wounded Warriors softball games held at the lodge, the Bedford Fire Department, Goode/Bedford/New London rescue squads, Bedford Humane Society and many other local organizations that count on our existence for donations. Without the money created through charitable gaming, not only would these important community events have to stop, but the lodge would likely have to close altogether. Please, please don’t allow this bill to become law.

Last Name: Conway Organization: Virginia Elks Association Locality: Front Royal

SB1127 will harm the Charity dollars given to local communities. Last year the VEA gave $5.6 million to multiple charities in local communities. The VEA strongly opposes SB1127. Please vote it down in committee ThankYou Bob Conway Government Relations Chair Virginia Elks Association

SB1278 - Charitable gaming; regulations of operators of Texas Hold'em poker games.
Last Name: Berman Organization: Virginians for Integrity in Horse Racing and Casno Gambling Locality: Richmond

February - General Assembly passes SB936 allowing charities to have Texas Holdem Tournaments. July 8th - First meeting of Charitable Gaming Board discussing Texas Holdem. It was at this first meeting that the chairman introduced, Rich Lehman, whom he described as a friend of his that played Texas Hold’em and had asked him to attend to help explain the New Hampshire tournament regs the chairman had decided to use as a template for ours. July 22nd - Matt Benka sends letter to CGB on behalf of the Virginia Charitable Gaming Council complaining about illegal poker games, one of which is being operated by a board member. Chairman Lessin promises to hand deliver a letter to the Attorney General’s office asking him to intervene but never follows through. July 25th,26th,27th - Three day workgroup to work on regs. It was during these three days that it became clear that Mr. Lehman was trying to manipulate and change the New Hampshire regs to create a gray area so they could also have cash games. August 11th - Marty Williams, chair of the VCGC asks chairman Lessin when he is going to do something about the illegal poker games being run by one of the board members. September 3rd - I write to Senator Peterson in an attempt to alert him of all the malfeasance going on in regard to SB936. September 16th - After my letter to the Senator, Chairman Lessin starts off the September 16th CGB meeting by offering a disclosure that he stands to gain, maybe more so than anyone else, from the regs he has been writing. October/November - VDAC continues to reject CGB’s proposed regs. They warn the board that cash games are not allowed in SB936. December 18th - One of the last things VDAC finally agrees to allow CGB to submit the regs they have written for approval. December 22nd - During a random search of “Richmond poker” I stumble on the “smoking gun” lol, a video interview with Rich Lehman in which he states that he had been hired by Chairman Lessin back in May 2020 as “Poker Operations Director” while all along having identified himself as a member of the public and all the while pushing the chairman’s agenda. It was never disclosed that Mr. Lehmanh had been on the Chairman’s payroll as “Poker Operations Manager” since May of 2020, a full 3 months before beginning to write the rules and regulations, all the while identifying himself and speaking as a member of the public while promoting the chairman’s agenda. It is during this video interview that Chairman Lessin’s true plans come to light. He plans to turn his “Pop’s Bingo Hall” into a commercial gaming center, running cash poker games 7 days a week 16 hours a day, with hopes of expanding to up to 30 tables. I am including a link to that video and am providing the time of these admissions so you can easily locate them. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DmMro3YzvpA&feature=youtu.be&fbclid=IwAR3Hbij_hWgEHfsup2JCzFyPV6597eBtau4Uc36JpionLFP5PA4L-WbRa5c 27:40 was hired by chairman Lessin in May as “poker operations manager” 36:25 want to start with 10 tables and be open 7 days a week, 16 hours a day 37:55 wants to expand to thirty tables

SB1428 - Alcoholic beverage control; operation of government stores, sale of low alcohol beverage coolers.
Last Name: DiFranco Organization: Virginia Spirits Association Locality: Virginia Beach

Principle Advantage representing the Virginia Spirits Association submits the following comments on their behalf. Virginia Sprits Association understands that shelf space is a valued commodity in stores – especially during a time when ABC revenue is growing while other state revenue streams are on the decline. As the patron stated during the Senate Finance hearing, removing low-alcohol beverages (LABs) from the shelves of ABC stores would free up more space for the sale of spirits which are taxed at a much higher rate than LABs which are taxed at the much lower wine rate. If the intent of the SB1428 is to clear up a marketplace issue between the ABC authority and the wholesalers and retailers it regulates, then the bill MUST be amended. The current language of the bill only removes some LABs creating an inequitable carve out for others. As written, the bill removes 91% of the LABs sold in 2020 and its associated revenue to the Commonwealth and leaves behind a carve-out market for a small, select group of licensed distillers. We respectfully request that you OPPOSE SB1428 as written, and instead amend the language of the bill to remove and low alcohol beverage coolers produced by licensed distillers on lines 16-17, 112-113, and 208-209. Removing ALL LABs from ABC store shelves would establish a fair and consistent policy for all in the LAB marketplace. VSA thanks you for your consideration, and appreciates your past support of “cocktails-to-go”.

End of Comments