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Michigan legislature may not gamble on charity gaming

Rescued as a nine-year-old 42 pound female Golden Retriever, Beetle Bailey was saved by a Golden Retriever rescue organization
Rescued as a nine-year-old 42 pound female Golden Retriever, Beetle Bailey was saved by a Golden Retriever rescue organization
Rochelle Lesser

Many Michigan charities count on revenues from licensed charity gaming, like poker rooms and Millionaire’s Nights to fund their good works. According to the state of Michigan, many charity groups use this type of charity gaming, such as animal rescues, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Girl Scouts, Humane Society and veteran programs.

Last year, according to the Michigan Charitable Gaming Division, charity gaming brought in $184,176,756. Who could be against gambling for charity?

Well, some Michigan legislative members to start.

This afternoon in Lansing, Mich. the Michigan legislature’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules will be considering allowing regulations to go into effect which charities say would cut-off an irreplaceable revenue stream.

The for-profit gambling industry in Michigan may also not be enamored with charity gaming. In 2003, according to Crain’s Detroit Business, charitable gaming brought in $3.4 million. The same year the three Detroit casinos generated $1,130,201,887.16. Fast forward several years, in 2010 the Detroit casinos brought in $1,377,929,084.94, which means after adjusting for inflation the Detroit casinos seem to have little growth in terms of gross proceeds.

Charitable gaming proceeds on the other hand increased 540 percent between 2003 and 2012. Michigan's for-profit casinos may have lost some poker players to charity gaming.

The Golden Retriever Rescue of Michigan (GRRoM) is one Michigan charitable organization that benefits from charitable gaming. According to Lyn Baumann, GRRoM Fundraising Coordinator, 16 percent of GRRoM’s revenue comes from charitable gaming.

Lyn rescued a Golden Retriever named Jasper, so she understands a rescue dog’s love and appreciation. “The golden is that quintessential partner to a family or to an individual and they’re so forgiving and open to being who you need them to be for wherever you are in your life.”

Paddy Ash of Ypsilanti, Mich. knows all about that. In August 2003 he adopted an eight-year-old Golden Retriever named Rocky from GRRoM. Paddy took Rocky everywhere he went, including to Dawn Farm, a young adult alcohol rehabilitation facility.

In a letter written to GRRoM, Paddy describes the effect of Rocky on the clients at the facility for treatment, “One of the most touching incidents was when one of the young clients upon greeting Rocky, simply laid down on the floor and put his arm around him.”

About the same time Paddy Ash and Rocky were visiting young recovering alcoholics facing challenges, then-Second Lieutenant Luis Carlos Montalván was stationed in Al-Waleed, Iraq facing his own monolithic challenge.

The Iraqi border police had detained a civilian man suspected of transporting fake medicine. When the man refused to provide information to an American intelligence team, now retired Capt. Luis Carlos Montalván described what transpired in his bestselling book, Until Tuesday: A Wounded Warrior and the Golden Retriever Who Saved Him, “…they threw him on the concrete floor, elevated his legs, blindfolded him, stuffed a rag down his throat, and poured water into his mouth.” This man’s waterboarding in front of Second Lieutenant Montalván took ten minutes. “That incident is a scar on my mind,” Capt. Montalván wrote.

After two tours of duty in Iraq, Capt. Montalván had serious physical and mental injuries, including a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder. Tuesday, a specially trained Golden Retriever, assists Capt. Montalván in coping with his physical and emotional injuries. Capt. Montalván’s physical symptoms and agonizing memories of Iraq, like witnessing the waterboarding in Al-Waleed, are mitigated every day by Tuesday’s love and devotion.

Golden Retrievers like Rocky and Tuesday are among the numerous reasons why the Michigan legislature should not restrict charity gaming, and many feel should this type of gaming should be encouraged to assist charitable causes. In the meantime, Capt. Montalván and Tuesday will be helping support GRRoM this Sunday in Troy, Mich. Anyone who would like to buy tickets to the event can go to the GRRoM website at www.grrom.com/luistuesdayevent.html.

Groups dedicated to helping Michigan’s animals need all the help they can get. The proposed charitable gaming rule change reflects a larger conflict between big casinos and smaller charities. But when it comes to furry spirits enhancing the daily life of Michiganders, many decidedly come down on the side of pets over profits.