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Can we conduct a raffle for a scholarship?

Q: Our local association is trying to raise money to award a scholarship to a future educator. Can we run a raffle?

A: A raffle is a game of chance, a form of gambling generally prohibited by state law. Your local association probably cannot qualify for a permit to conduct a raffle under Virginia's charitable gaming law. The only organizations allowed to conduct charitable gaming are volunteer fire and rescue squads, war veterans, fraternal associations and lodges, and organizations operated exclusively for religious, charitable, educational, or community purposes. The work your local association does on behalf of members is not religious, charitable, educational, or community work.

Members of your local association could organize a separate entity solely for an educational purpose - helping future educators and awarding a scholarship. That separate organization might qualify for a permit to conduct a lawful raffle, bingo game, or duck race. However you will need to get detailed advice on, and pay careful attention to legal, accounting and other practical issues to set up and run the separate organization.

Or, your local association can raise funds through an activity that is not a game of chance. An activity constitutes illegal gambling when the elements of prize, chance and consideration are present together. A raffle is pure luck, but other games involve skill or knowledge. Maybe you can get creative, have fun and raise money for a good cause without a problem under the state's laws on gambling.


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