Will South Carolina Legalize Charitable Raffles?

SC Legislature will take up bills once more in 2012

Though many organizations use raffles and other forms of drawings as fundraising tools, they have long been, and continue to be, illegal in South Carolina.  In recent years, there have been efforts to make charitable rafffles legal and provide SC nonprofits with an effective fundraising tool used in all but four states.

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What is a raffle and why is it illegal?

Under State law (Sections 16-19-10 through 16-19-30), only the State is allowed to legally operate a lottery. Opinions issued from the SC Attorney General have consistently opined that raffles are lotteries because raffles contain the three elements of a lottery:

  1. a prize is offered;
  2. there is payment of some consideration for the raffle ticket;
  3. the winner is determined by chance.

Other opinions have also held that “casino nights” and “poker runs” would constitute a lottery and would be illegal under SC law. Similarly, “rubber duck races” and other types of games of chance fit within the definition of a lottery.

What are the penalties for operating a raffle?

Penalties exist at all levels for those who operate raffles, sell tickets, or buy tickets.

For those who operate a raffle, Section 16-19-10 states:  “Whoever shall publicly or privately erect, set up … any lottery … is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, must be fined one thousand dollars ($1,000) and imprisoned for one year.”  The law goes on to outline that each violation (i.e., each ticket) constitutes a separate offense.

In Section 16-19-30, the law states:  “It shall be unlawful to offer for sale any lottery tickets … and if any person shall offend … he shall, on conviction thereof, forfeit and pay to the State a sum not exceeding ten thousand dollars ($10,000).

For those who buy raffle tickets, Section 16-19-20 states:  “Whoever shall …contribute unto or upon account of any sales or lotteries shall forfeit for every such offense the sum of one hundred dollars ($100).”  Provisions also exist for the offender to pay court costs for their prosecution.

Who is in charge of enforcement for raffles?

Section 16-19-30 further states:  “The county treasurer of the county in which such offense occurs shall prosecute the offender.”

Don’t think this is an issue because the laws aren’t enforced?

Ask the South Carolina Lions Charitable Services why they gave up raising $500,000 a year through their raffles.

What will it take to change the laws?

It requires the passage of two pieces of legislation.

One (S. 256), seeks to change the state constitution to lift the prohibition on anyone other than the state operating a lottery.  If passed, this would require a public referendum in Fall 2012 before the constitution can be changed.  The other bill (S. 255), lays out the conditions under which raffles can be operated.  Both pieces of legislation must be enacted before nonprofit organizations can legally operate a raffle for charitable purposes.

SCANPO’s Advocacy Committee is investigating this issue. Want to help?  Please let us know.

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