Sheriff Kevin Sproul on Specific Laws Governing Charity Raffles

Sheriff Kevin Sproul

Thursday, March 8th, 2018

How many times have you been asked to cough up a dollar, five dollars, or even more to purchase a raffle ticket to have the opportunity to win a prize? For most of us, we give the money and never consider winning the prize. But have you ever stopped and thought or wondered who won the prize or why you never seem to win? Have you ever wondered if the funds were actually used for the purpose that was stated?

Many local organizations rely on fundraising efforts to operate. Often, raffles are used as a method to raise money. Raffles, when conducted properly, can be fair and fun, as well as effective in generating funds with very low overhead. Many organizations, however, are not familiar with the laws regarding raffles.

Georgia law defines a “Raffle” as any scheme or procedure whereby one or more prizes are distributed by chance among persons who have paid or promised consideration for a chance to win such prize. This also includes door prizes which are awarded to persons attending meetings or activities provided that the cost of admission to such meetings or activities does not exceed the usual cost of similar activities where such prizes are not awarded.

In Georgia, raffles are viewed as gambling and are strictly controlled. Only Sheriffs can issue a license to operate a raffle and Georgia law only allows nonprofit, tax-exempt organizations, which have been in existence for a minimum of twenty-four months, to apply for a raffle license. Any person, business, or organization that conducts a raffle without a license commits the felony offense of commercial gambling.

If a non-profit organization wishes to conduct a raffle, they must apply for a raffle license with the Sheriff of the county in which the raffle will be held. If the raffle will be held in more than one county, the organization must apply with the Sheriff of the county in which that organization is headquartered. The fee for such license is limited by law to a maximum of one-hundred dollars and the license is valid from the date of issuance until midnight on December 31st of that year. During that year, the organization may conduct up to three raffles per license, but no more than one on any given day.

When conducting the raffle, care must be exercised so that no person under the age of 18 purchases a ticket or wins a prize unless accompanied by an adult. Careful records should be maintained as the Sheriff may require the organization to file a report disclosing all receipts and expenditures relating to the operation of the raffle. This helps to ensure that prizes are actually awarded and that the funds generated by the raffle are actually used for the purpose advertised.

As you can see there is more to a raffle than just giving a dollar and hoping to win. Georgia law is very specific when it comes to conducting a raffle and I hope this article has shed some light on the laws regarding raffles. If you have any questions regarding this subject, or any other concerns, please contact the Dougherty County Sheriff’s Office at (229) 430-6508.