State by State: Raffle Law in America


Six weeks, six posts: today we present the conclusion to our fifty-state guide to US raffle law.

Outside Assistance?

In some cases, the law specifically prohibits licenses based on past transgressions. Indiana, for instance, takes a stand against repeat offenders by denying the right to run a raffle if the “applicant is not of good moral character or reputation; or…. The organization has engaged in fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation.” Kentucky warns fundraisers that, while the state “provides a regulatory framework allowing charitable gaming to thrive as a viable fundraising mechanism,” organizations must be wary of for-profit corporations offering to oversee raffle and boost profits.

Kentucky legislation, “prohibits any individuals from receiving financial gain from charitable gaming activities,” and groups employing such tactic may lose their licenses in addition to being fined. The same holds true in Massachusetts, where “a for-profit entity cannot hold a raffle for itself or a nonprofit; and an individual cannot hold a raffle.”

Our State, Our Rules

California also opposes gambling activities for personal or business gain, but provides for charitable fundraising conducted in this way. Interested organization must register their intent to hold a raffle with the state, and must ensure that “at least 90 percent of the gross receipts from these raffles go directly to beneficial or charitable purposes in California.” Pay attention to the language! The money raised in California, it seems, must stay in California. In Pennsylvania, registration is only the first step: the state requires twelve distinct pieces of information regarding the raffle, including “The maximum odds of the game,” which it then publishes in a periodical called the Pennsylvania Bulletin.

Seriously, Don’t Worry

Some laws are not as tough as they could be. While Mississippi exempts raffles from its definition of gambling and allows “any nonprofit civic, educational, wildlife conservation or religious organization with all proceeds going to said organization” to run such an event, the punishment for violating this law is not too extreme: anyone violating the law for personal gain “shall, on conviction, be fined not more than Twenty Dollars ($20.00), or be imprisoned not more than one (1) month in the county jail.” Nevada, the home of legalized gambling, naturally allows raffles while reserving the right “to license, tax, regulate, prohibit and suppress all tippling houses, dramshops, public card tables, raffles, hawkers, peddlers, pawnbrokers, gambling houses, disorderly houses and houses of ill fame.”

Surprising Details

It’s important to do your own research of course, as each state has its own quirks when it comes to raffle ticket laws. In New Hampshire, for instance, it’s imperative to choose your raffle ticket printing company carefully, as the law requires that each ticket has sequential numbering printed on the body of the ticket and “the name of the charitable organization thereon, the date and place of the drawing, and the prize or prizes to be awarded and the amount of the donation.” New Hampshire is also noteworthy is allowing minors 16 years old and up to buy raffle tickets. New Mexico offers special exceptions for movie theaters, which may offer “prizes of cash or merchandise for advertising purposes…for the purpose of stimulating business” with little oversight.

More Surprises

In New York, raffle tickets can be sold for six months prior to the drawing, but no earlier. New York also specifically prohibits minors from selling tickets, as well as purchasing them. On the opposite end of the spectrum, in Washington State, however, minors are allowed to sell raffle ticket in service of a group whose “primary purpose is the development of youth.” That state also largely prohibits the awarding of any type of liquor as a prize, as well as canceling the raffle in the event that you don’t sell enough tickets. In Texas, many types of organization are allowed to hold their own raffles, but they cannot operate cash raffles, and they cannot run more than one raffle at any given time.

Of course, state lotteries are a type of cash raffle, but did you know that some states conduct their own raffles for other purposes? In South Dakota, licenses to hunt elk are distributed through a raffle. Only winners may purchase the license.

Running a raffle for cash or prizes, for personal or charitable gain can be fun and rewarding. Just make sure to do your research, fill out the right forms, and pay any fees and taxes required. Are you ready? Why not start printing your own raffle tickets online, right now?