New Laws Plague Bazaars

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FAIRVIEW TOWNSHIP -- All across the commonwealth, members of churches and fire departments are preparing for the busy summer bazaar season.

Changes to the small games of chance laws that are now in effect could cost non-profits thousands of dollars from their biggest money makers of the year.

The bazaar grounds are bare at the Mountain Top Hose Company in Fairview Township but in two months, the place will be bustling with food being fried up and carnival games.

The annual event pulls in 40% of the money the volunteer department raises every years. That money is used to pay for new equipment like a brand new fire truck.

Fire company president David Hourigan said because of recent amendments to the 1998 small games of chance law, all games of chance are now illegal, including some of what were the biggest money makers for non-profit groups.

"You have to be 18 years of age or older to also play that game, which will significantly impact our instant bingo stand. Where an awful lot of teenagers come to win their $25 or$50 and have spending money for the night," said Hourigan.

Some of the money wheels and kids games that have been a staple at the Mountain Top Hose Company #1 bazaar won't be here this summer. Organizers said to comply with the laws, they will also stop using volunteers under the age of 18 at the bazaar.

"We`ll be impacted by thousands, if not $10,000 in how the bazaar turns out profit wise, by the laws that are applied. We`re being punished for all the good work that we've done for the community for all these years," said Hourigan.

Hourigan said he also won't bring in some of the games that were overlooked in the past. Games that could lead criminal charges.

The changes aren't just for fire departments. Charles Prohaska said he is waiting to see how other churches handle the changes in the small games of change law before St. John the Baptist Church holds its bazaar in Larksville this August.

"It's upsetting because we don`t know where were going to go from here. I don`t know whether it is political. It surely will hurt a lot of people," said Prohaska.

The small games of chance laws are enforced by the state's liquor control board.  Even more changes to the law were passed in the State House in February. So far, those proposed revisions haven't budged in the State Senate.