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Charitable gambling losses estimated at $4 million

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Electronic pull tab machines sit in the Blarney Stone Pub in downtown Bismarck Wednesday, July 3, 2019. John Hageman / Forum News Service

BISMARCK — About 300 charitable organizations in North Dakota have already lost an estimated $4 million, and that number could increase in coming months because of the coronavirus pandemic and the closures and slowdowns at bars and restaurants in the state.

Janelle Mitzel, president of the Charitable Gaming Association of North Dakota, said that figure is the estimated losses between March and May.

"I'm afraid these organizations and programs that rely on funding from charitable gaming will feel these effects for the foreseeable future, and the people who rely on these programs and services will be the ones to suffer," Mitzel said in a release on Wednesday, July 8.

She said the nonprofit agencies that rely on the gaming revenue to keep their programs afloat are still struggling.

The organizations that receive proceeds from gaming in the state provide funds to food banks, homeless shelters, disability support services, veteran services and youth activities, she said.

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One organization, the North Dakota Association for the Disabled, said they were at risk of suspending services once their limited cash reserves were depleted.

Don Santer, who heads the organization, said clients of the agency receive help with prescriptions, medical travel for appointments and surgeries. He said they help with things that aren't covered by other government and nonprofit agencies.

Blackjack dealers statewide also are suffering a "wage deficit," Mitzel said as limitations remain on bar and restaurant capacities.

She said the organization was able to acquire a federal Small Business Administration Paycheck Protection Program loan to cover the wage expenses of gaming employees who experienced reduced income due to the lower number of patrons in bars and restaurants.

She said it took some of the "pressure off" and allowed proceeds to go to charitable organizations.

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