My thoughts on this are mixed. I think it’s reasonable to expect that everyone chip in for materials needed to play the game. However, if players give the GM money for gaming materials, then players should either be given some of those materials upon leaving the group, or be refunded said money if they aren’t given anything from the GM stash. The GM should not just get to keep everything, as player money went to those materials. That said, if players and their GM work this out as an arrangement, and they’re all happy with it, then that’s their call.
It seems more reasonable to me that players all buy various gaming items the group needs, and then those become the property of whoever directly purchased the items. For games, they can pool all their gaming gear, or even let the gm hold onto it while he’s running a campaign if they don’t need it for anything else. This way, there’s no issue about who it actually belongs to. Whoever bought it, owns it, and when they leave or ask for it back, they get it back.
In terms of friendly gatherings, it seems to me that friends can figure out who buys what in order to play and work it out without charging a gaming fee. There’s another possibility however. Perhaps there’s actually a professional GM who charges for services. There’s nothing wrong with this, but I should imagine this GM would need to be very, very good at what he does. I’ve played games with people who are very good at running fast paced, detail oriented, and fun games. One person I know tracks events all over the world as the game runs, has stats for every npc we interact with, and plans out every session. Further, this person knows exactly how these npcs will react to almost anything we come up with to do. I would expect any professional being paid to run games of this high quality. In addition, it would also be a requirement that they make every effort to involve all paying players in the game, since they are paying to enjoy themselves. Naturally, this is good advice for any GM, but for someone charging to play, it’s absolutely necessary, and probably a minimum amount of effort to ask for.
Naturally, the people playing might have different ideas about what’s fun, and they may talk with the GM they’re hiring. Either way though, if the players want a specific focus, it’s perfectly reasonable to expect the same amount of effort from the GM, just focused on the areas of play the group thinks are important.
Another possibility is a membership fee to a gaming club, which then would go towards buying new gaming materials to be stored at the club meeting place. Everyone contributes money, everyone gets to make use of the materials, and the materials belong to the club. The only issue to really watch out for here is to make sure club leaders don’t justify running off with all the materials if the club shuts down. If arrangements that are agreeable to all are made, go with those. Otherwise, I think reasonable options would be to raffle off the gaming gear to members of the club who want it, or donate it all to a local library for club members, and other people for that matter, to be able to make use of it anytime the library has it.
In the end though, these are decisions left to each individual gaming group to work out based on their own circumstances. There isn’t one way to do it, and if everyone leaves happy at the end of the campaign, then the group has found a method that works.