Hamel-Plymouth VFW Post 5903 will be allowed to utilize charitable gambling to aid in boosting funds in light of dwindling membership.
Post 5903 is located at 19020 Hamel Road in the far northwest corner of Plymouth. Operators of the post approached the City Council to request changing an ordinance that previously barred the VFW from hosting charitable gambling.
As it stood, the ordinance required a minimum distance of 500 feet between the post and residential property; Post 5903 is within 75 feet of single-family homes.
The VFW applied to the council Jan. 8 to strike the 500-foot requirement for fraternal organizations.
“We have dwellings within 75 feet, but they like us, they come over all the time, it’s not like we’re enemies,” said former Post 5903 Commander Paul Mercer of the Hamel-Plymouth VFW. “If you contact them, you will find they have no problems having us being there or having a gambling license.”
Mercer said the post would like to begin using charitable gambling because the VFW’s membership, and therefore revenue from dues, is shrinking along with the pool of eligible veterans.
He continued to say that the money raised by events such as bingo, pull-tabs or meat raffles would be used to continue the work the post does in the community.
“We’re immersed in the community, and we like to do good [throughout],” said Mercer. “With more money, we can do that. The VFW supports softball, bus drivers’ programs, teachers’ programs, firefighters’ programs and we’re in parades.”
Mercer continued to say that the first priority of the VFW is to take care of veterans and the widows and orphans. That has become increasingly difficult.
“We want veterans to come in and play some bingo or a take part in a meat raffle, have a cold drink and socialize,” he said. “Then that money would be used in the community and for our veterans.”
The council agreed that charitable gambling would be a benefit to the VFW and saw little problem in approving but were wary of allowing gambling for all fraternal organizations in Plymouth.
While the VFW is the only legal fraternal organization in the city, the possibility of more being established in the future would mean that they too would be allowed the same privileges as Post 5903.
“To me, this seems like it would probably work in this situation,” said Mayor Kelli Slavik. “But if we make this change here, and down the road we have another fraternal organization that gets a place in Plymouth and starts to sell liquor, then they would be afforded the same eligibility to have gambling as close as they want to residential property.”
Law defines a fraternal organization as nonprofit entities that are a branch, lodge or chapter of a national or state organization registered by the IRS as a 501(c)(8) or 501(c)(10) nonprofit and exists for the common business fraternal or other interest of its members.
The term does not include college or high school fraternities and sororities.
“We don’t know what might come in the future, but I don’t see VFW’s being built all over the place, granted it can happen,” said Councilmember Judy Johnson. “I’m a little more inclined to take the next step on this and see what we can do for them.”
Councilmember Jim Willis proposed that the ordinance be amended to exclude organizations from the 500-foot rule that have been occupying the same site since 1975. Post 5903 has been active since 1972.
The council approved the amendment. However, if a new fraternal organizations were to move to Plymouth, the 500-foot rule would continue to apply to them.