Recent crackdowns by the state on raffles have some charitable organizations worried they may be next to be busted.
“We have a lot of great organizations here trying to help people,” said District Attorney General Lisa Zavogiannis. “We want to be sure they do it the right way.”
Her comments come after citations have been issued across the state, including one here, against organizations caught holding fundraising raffles. State regulators, usually acting on anonymous tips, have been present at some fundraisers and have cited those selling raffle tickets.
The citations have caught many by surprise as some organizations have long used raffles to raise money for their causes. The crime is punishable by a small fine. However, many of those working as volunteers to help with causes don’t like the idea they may be punished for their good deeds.
According to Zavogiannis, the best way to avoid any appearance of being outside the state’s strict gambling law is not to sell chances at winning anything, whether it be money or prizes.
“You can’t require them to pay to enter things like random drawings,” Zavogiannis said.
Door prizes are perfectly legal provided, once again, that money is not taken for a chance to win. In other words drawing for prizes at a fundraising dinner where people paid to eat is not considered illegal. Cake walks, if done properly, are also within the law provided the person is paying for a cake.
While pretty much forbidden, games of chance can be run if the fundraising agency acquires a special permit from the state.
“Nonprofits can petition the state for a permit,” Zavogiannis. “But you can only do that one time a year and from what I hear there’s not a lot of them given out.”
Zavogiannis said her office wants to support nonprofit and volunteer organizations in this area so anyone with questions as to the legality of their fundraising idea should feel free to contact her office to make sure they are operating within the law.