New Jersey To Allow Veterans Groups To Keep Funds From Fundraisers

Republican Chris Christie beating Democrat Barbara Buono 60.5 percent to 38 percent to win a second term as New Jersey governor was not the biggest drubbing on the ballot this Election Day, November 5. More than four-fifths (81 percent) of voters answering the question said yes to a ballot initiative that would allow veterans’ groups like the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) to keep proceeds from small gambling events like bingo and raffles.

Some 1.323 million voters approved the measure, compared to about 305,000 voting no. The state constitution will be amended to allow the groups to use a percentage of the funds raised for themselves. According to the ballot’s interpretive statement, veterans’ groups were limited to use the funds for “educational, charitable, patriotic, religious or public spirited purposes.”

Veterans’ groups, fraternal organizations, civic organizations, senior citizens’ groups, volunteer fire companies and first-aid squads are authorized to conduct games of chance, according to the League of Women Voters of New Jersey, based in Trenton. Until voters agreed to change the constitution, only senior citizens’ groups were allowed to use proceeds from their games of chance for their own organizations.

Because the initiative is a constitutional amendment, it had to pass both the state senate and state assembly. The last step was yesterday’s ballot question. The change will be effective 30 days from the ratification, said a spokesperson for the  New Jersey Senate Republican Office. The groups will be allowed to use all funds collected during games of chance, he said. “The point of the change is to allow the organizations to use the funds for maintenance and facilities costs,” said the spokesperson. Gov. Christie’s press secretary Michael Drewniak and The Legalized Games of Chance Commission, which regulates small gambling ventures, did not return a request for comment. The Division of Elections declined to comment, saying there was no one in the division currently available and authorized to speak with the press.

“We just wanted to see it passed so we have the opportunity to use part of the money,” said John Baker, department adjutant of the American Legion of New Jersey, based in Trenton. The American Legion has more than 260 posts in New Jersey. Baker added that every post has different needs, some do games of chance and some do not, but posts may be looking to use the funds for building repairs and utility bills.

“We think it’s necessary to help veterans’ organizations continue to serve vets and keep their chapters alive and going,” said Jim Kopley, adjutant of Disabled American Veterans, Department of New Jersey (DAV). “We’re very pleased.” DAV has approximately 40 chapters in New Jersey, according to Kopley.