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Carroll County's charitable gaming bill is already making its way through the legislative process after it received favorable votes at an unusually early bill hearing.

Senate Bill 4 "Carroll County – Gaming Events" received a favorable vote from the Maryland Senate's Budget and Tax Committee during the committee's opening meeting. This was called a "courtesy" by Sen. Joe Getty, R-District 5, who is leaving to join Gov.-elect Larry Hogan's staff as chief legislative officer.

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The bill would allow certain nonprofits in Carroll County to operate casino nights, which according to the legislation are fundraisers featuring card, dice and other casino games. Funds raised by the event could be used to further the cause of the nonprofit; used for charity; or, with county commissioner approval, can be used for a family with medical needs.

The latter was called a "clarification" by Getty as legislators intended for the events to help families in need.

"It is a new session, a new year, with a lot of new players," Getty said. "We will see what the House does with it."

Now that the bill has received favorable approval from the Senate committee, it will go back to the Senate chambers for a second and third reading before making its way to the House of Delegates.

Last year's attempt to pass the gaming bill resulted in it passing the House with amendments that added Howard County and Baltimore City — a move that Getty called a "poison pill." Although it passed the House, it wasn't taken back up in the Senate with the changes. This occurred on the last day of the 2014 session.

Getty said those roadblocks may have been caused by the Carroll County delegation's opposition to statewide gambling but support for the local gambling bill.

"But the real question is, will there still be a grudge toward the Carroll County delegation for its past lack of support for statewide gaming initiatives," Getty said.

Neal C. Roop, Carroll County Volunteer Emergency Services Association administrative assistant coordinator, attended the hearing to make his case on passing the bill.

He said organizations like volunteer fire departments could use the casino nights to boost their coffers, purchasing new equipment or helping out a firefighter or family member who needs medical treatment.

Organizations holding casino nights now leave the county and seek a permit from counties that allow charitable gaming, Roop said.

"But it is not a cure for all financial deficit," Roop said. "[It's] another source of funds for the fire department."

Getty said he was hopeful the House of Delegates would vote favorably on the bill, but he didn't definitively say if it would pass.

Roop was confident the bill would gain the traction it needs, even calling its potential passing a "courtesy vote," as local bills typically don't face much opposition.

Carroll delegates have shown support in previous interviews, and the charitable gaming bill was named as a priority before the legislative session started.

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"That would be a significant boost for our nonprofits in Carroll County," Del. Haven Shoemaker, R-District 5, said earlier this month. "They need another source of revenue to raise money for their worthwhile causes."

Reach reporter Chase Cook at ccook@capgaznews.com.

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