First Posted: 1/6/2014

State legislators recently passed a law allowing organizations to conduct small games of chance, and one Back Mountain nonprofit group is already planning its annual Night at the Races event for this year.

The Dallas Lions Club held a Night at the Races event annually for 25 years and it was typically the group’s most successful fundraiser throughout the year. That is, until last year, when state legislation required strict record-keeping and reporting requirements for the games.

“That really threw a kink in our plans,” said Frank Rollman, publicity chairperson for the Dallas Lions Club.

Rollman said the Night at the Races features video cassettes of horse races in which there are about 500 horses. There are 10 horses in each race, and participants can buy a horse for $10 each. If someone’s horse wins, that person receives a prize of $50. The club receives the other $50 made from the race.

He said there are other opportunities to win at the event as well, including raffle tickets and placing extra bets on individual races. He said the event would usually attract between 150 to 200 participants.

“We provided the food and drinks for people, and if they bought a horse, their ticket to the event is free, too,” said Rollman. “It was a reasonable night out for people. And we would bring in $2,000 to $2,500 from the event.”

In addition to the “Night at the Races event, Rollman said the group was unable to man the Big Six wheel, another betting game, at the Luzerne County Fair due to the new law. Both events accounted for most of the group’s fundraising efforts.

Rollman said the group had to come up with other ways to raise funds last year, including retooling its booth at the fair and organizing a Penn State tailgate party at the Checkerboard Inn in Trucksville in the fall.

“We definitely didn’t raise as much money as we would have with the Night at the Races’ or the Big Six wheel,” he said. “That left us unable to contribute to some of the charities we donate to.”

Rollman said the Lions donate to at least 30 different charities. The organization is a service club that focuses on sight programs, including eyeglass recycling and Camp Beacon, a camp specifically for blind children.

The Dallas chapter of the Lions also does many local projects, said Rollman. The group has provided $500 book scholarships for Back Mountain students for the past 25 years. He also said the group helps local individuals who are in need of eye care.

“So many people fall through the cracks,” said Rollman. “If there is someone who needs eyeglasses and doesn’t have insurance or eye coverage, we will get them to an eye doctor and get them what they need.”

Rollman said the group contacted local legislators about the fundraising issues, and he believes the group’s concerns were heard with the passage of Act 92 of 2013.

“We’re back in business now,” he said. “Now we can raise more money. No money goes to anything but charities.”

Rollman said this year’s Night at the Races will most likely be held at the John Paul II Center, the former Gate of Heaven School on Machell Avenue in Dallas.

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