Proposed state legislation to increase taxes on charitable gaming was tabled Tuesday afternoon, pending further investigation. The Senate Labor and Commerce Committee, chaired by Sen. Con Bunde, R-Anchorage, established a task force to review the issues involved in changing the tax and return to the committee with recommendations.
Sen. Ralph Seekins, R-Fairbanks, will lead the subcommittee that will include Sens. Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, and Hollis French, D-Anchorage.
"The three that will serve on the committee wanted more time to look at the issue," said Doug Letch, Stevens' chief of staff. "I think (Stevens) wants to get more information on the whole issue of charitable gaming."
Senate Bill 102, a measure proposed by Gov. Frank Mur-kowski, calls for boosting the tax on pull-tabs from the current 3 percent on ideal net, the amount left after prizes are paid out, to 5 percent on the ideal gross, which would tax the total amount of receipts, assuming every individual pull-tab ticket in a bunch was sold at face value.
Letch said response from people opposing the bill was overwhelming. Initial messages used up more than 1,000 sheets of paper on his office's fax machine, he said.
"A lot of people have a dog in this fight," Letch said. "We've gotten quite a few letters and correspondence asking to take a look at what effect this proposal will have on their ability to raise funds."
One such response came from Ricky Gease, executive director of the Kenai Convention and Visitors Bureau, which depends on gaming for the majority of its funding. He argued that if passed, the bill would levy taxes on money the charities never see, shifting taxes from "real money to ... Monopoly money."
Tuesday afternoon Gease exhaled at the news of the committee's decision.
"It's what we have recommended, and I'm glad that the Legislature is listening to the gaming industry," Gease said. "When you have changes that are going to affect so many nonprofit organizations, you have to address those involved.
"We've had legitimate concerns, and it's better to have everybody sit together and work together."
The corresponding measure in the state House of Representatives was referred to the House Finance Committee on April 14.
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