Requirements to Have a Raffle in Pennsylvania

By Christine Funk, J.D.

Requirements to Have a Raffle in Pennsylvania

By Christine Funk, J.D.

In Pennsylvania, “gambling" refers to a situation in which a payment made, fee charged, or some other offered item of value provides the chance to win a prize or reward of some kind. Generally speaking, gambling is illegal in Pennsylvania. Technically, a raffle, in which tickets are sold for the chance to win a prize, is gambling, and it falls under the governance of Pennsylvania's Local Option Small Games of Chance Act.

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Passed in 1988 and occasionally amended, the act authorizes certain organizations to offer raffles under certain circumstances. These organizations include certain nonprofit organizations and for-profit taverns.

Eligible Organizations

Eligible organizations include the following nonprofit entities:

  • Charitable organizations
  • Religious organizations
  • Fraternal organizations
  • Veterans organizations
  • Clubs
  • Civic associations
  • Service associations
  • Affiliated nonprofit organizations for major league sports teams

In addition to meeting the requirements of being one of these organizations, the entity must have been in existence and fulfilling the purpose of its organization for a minimum of one year.

Eligible entities can qualify for two types of raffle licenses: regular licenses or monthly licenses. Regular licenses are good for one year, while monthly licenses are valid for 30 days from the date of issue.

Prize Limits for Eligible Organizations

Pennsylvania's Local Option Small Games of Chance Act imposes limits for single prizes, prizes during a given week, and prizes during a given month. However, special raffle permits, available for both regular and monthly licenses, allow holders to conduct raffles exceeding the normal prize limits.

Generally, license holders can have up to 10 special raffle permits. However, volunteer fire, ambulance, rescue, and conservation organizations may hold up to 12 special raffle permits in a year. Further, they can award much higher amounts of total prize money than other special raffle permit holders.

When the payout includes a carryover daily or weekly drawing, the raffle is not subject to the general prize limits. When 100 percent of the gross revenue is paid out in a daily or weekly drawing, the prize doesn't count against the limit. General prize limits do not apply to major sports leagues.

Types of Licenses for Bars and Taverns

Bars and taverns are only eligible for tavern gaming licenses from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB), which offers annual licenses for pull-tab games, tavern raffles, and daily drawings. Hotels, restaurants, brewpubs, microbreweries, and privately owned public golf courses with valid licenses to sell alcohol are eligible, as long as they are in municipalities that permit games of chance.

In bars and taverns, prizes for single games of chance have specific limits. Further, taverns may not award more than a specific amount in a gaming week. There are no exceptions to the prize limits for tavern games.

Although they are technically a form of gambling, raffles can be a legal form of fundraising in Pennsylvania if they take place under certain circumstances. An eligible organization that wants to hold a raffle should consult the Local Option Small Games of Chance Act and take care to meet the requirements and observe the prize limit restrictions.

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