Come to the convention for charities

By Tim Engstrom
Members of the Spring Lake Park Lions were at the Capitol last spring trying to convince lawmakers to not scale back e-tabs. Lawmakers said they had never heard so much feedback on one single issue. E-tabs remains a hot topic going into the 2024 legislative session.

ST. CLOUD — Allied Charities of Minnesota’s 32nd annual convention takes place at the River’s Edge Convention Center in St. Cloud Nov. 16-17.

Early bird registration is over, but registration remains open.

There will be over 30 classes on charitable gambling.

Importantly, there will be a townhall meeting on electronic pulltabs from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 16.

ACM has held e-tab townhall meetings around Minnesota since last spring, when the state Legislature passed a law to make e-tabs less entertaining, claiming they were in conflict with tribal casino monopoly on slot machines because of the  “open all” button. Lawmakers also provided a very slight amount of tax relief. Minnesota remains the state with the highest taxes on charitable gambling.

The Minnesota American Legion stands firmly opposed to scaling back e-tabs.

The funding from e-tabs helps struggling veterans in many ways, said Department Legislative Chairwoman Kristy Janigo. Losing the funding hurts the ability of veteran service officers with counties and with the Legion and VFW to help them.

“Harming veterans is a non-starter for me,” Janigo said. “Minnesota has to  fix this.”

There is a big difference between how slot machines operate and electronic pulltabs. Slot machines have variable prize structures, jackpots and unlimited bets. E-tabs never have. E-tabs in Minnesota, even before the 2023 changes in law, already were more restrictive than other states.

E-tabs have helped charities statewide raise additional funds as the price of everything goes up.

Department Commander Paul Hassing noted that it costs more for food shelves to purchase food, so e-tabs have helped offset the inflation. Charities who use to donate $2,000 to a food shelf now must give $3,000 to provide the same level of charity, he said.

Many others involved in  the debate have pointed out how tribes can give campaign donations to politicians, but the charities are barred from doing so. That’s why it passed  with support from only one party.

The American Legion Department of Minnesota, Allied Charities of Minnesota, Protect Our Charities and others are calling on lawmakers this session to provide meaningful tax relief, to bring back bonus games and to bring back free plays. They are willing to compromise by passing  up on the matter of the “open all” button.

Friday,  Nov. 17,  has additional workshops, a monthly meeting of the Minnesota Gambling Control Board and an annual meeting of Allied Charities of Minnesota.

The Friday evening banquet features entertainment by Minnesota-based comedian C. Willi Myles.