- Associated Press - Thursday, April 27, 2017

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan lawmakers moved Thursday to change regulations in the charitable gambling industry, their latest attempt to ease a state crackdown that charities say has restricted their fundraising.

The legislation , approved 100-9 by the House, relates to “millionaire parties” - casino-style events where service groups, churches, schools and others split cash proceeds with poker rooms that run their popular Texas Hold ‘Em and other fundraisers.

The bill was sent to the Senate, which passed similar legislation in February. It would rescind rules set by Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration and require the Michigan Gaming Control Board to implement new ones consistent with the bill - many the same as what is in place now but others to reflect charities’ concerns.

The sponsor, Rep. Tom Barrett, said the agency has overstepped since Snyder gave it oversight of charitable gambling in 2012. Mom-and-pop charities have been “squeezed out” and have had an “incredibly difficult time” dealing with the state, he said.

The fundraising “benefits a lot of our communities and should be allowed to be done without overarching regulation that’s done in a way that just tries to inconvenience them instead of safeguard the public from abuse,” Barrett said.

The Gaming Control Board, which opposes the legislation, declined to comment. A House Fiscal Agency analysis says the agency is concerned over provisions that would limit its discretion to deny licenses and raise a daily per-event limit on chip sales to $20,000, from $15,000.

In 2016, the state issued more than 2,600 millionaire party licenses. Some $93.5 million in chips were sold for games, with charities reporting net profits of $8.8 million. Revenue and profits were less than half the peaks of $197.3 million and $19.2 million five years earlier.

In recent years, the state has shut down some pokers rooms and prosecuted people associated with the businesses over profits skimmed from charities and other crimes. The rules have sparked industry lawsuits against the state.

Similar legislation cleared the Senate overwhelmingly in 2015 but never reached Snyder’s desk. This time, however, the Republican-controlled Legislature could dare the GOP governor to veto it.

Barrett said legislators have addressed some of Snyder’s concerns.

“We’ll see what he does,” he said.

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Online:

House Bill 4081: https://bit.ly/2pmcwfw

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Follow David Eggert on Twitter at https://twitter.com/DavidEggert00 . His work can be found at https://bigstory.ap.org/author/david-eggert .

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