In this article we are going to look at some of the options you have when you want to plan a fundraiser based around gambling and casino games. The legality and regulations of such activities greatly revolves around location (state), revenue amount and suitable practices, so we will take a look at all the ways in which it is best to run such an event within the US and provide examples of practices that would avoid getting you into any trouble!
Gambling Regulations at Home
If you are running the event in your own home you will not need a gaming license or permission from any gaming commission. As long as you don’t intend to have an open house approach that invites all members of the public to participate. So you can:
– Have a poker game with friends and family in your own home.
– Run a larger event from your own home with casino games, as long your invites are limited to selected contacts, and it’s not open to the public.
– Run private gambling events in shared living quarters like: halls of residence, hostels and within other multiple residence buildings, as long as more than half the people participating live within that building.
All of these are possible and perfectly legal on occasion. You have to start being careful if you are running these events more often than once a week, are taking in significant amounts of revenue, and are starting to have a less selective approach to the people you invite.
When you claim your gambling event is meant to raise money for charity or a good cause it is important to ensure you tell all the people you invite to participate exactly what the event is for. You should also always keep records of where the profits from your event go. You need to have evidence that all the profits from your event go to the charity you’ve raised it for.
It is best to keep a book of all your expenses and revenues. Then you will be able to clearly show how much money was raised. Then ensure you get a receipt for your donation to the charity. Your profits and the amount you donated should match perfectly.
It’s best not to charge guests more than one fee, as in most states it is not legal to charge gamblers for more than one service at a non-professional gambling event. So keep it simple and just charge one entry or ticket charge. It’s also a very good idea to limit the amount a participant can possibly win to a certain reasonable level. $500 – $1000 is a sensible limit.
It can be possible to organize private video style games online through certain online providers, a bitcoin casino or an online casino. You might also be considering running a pool or lottery remotely. You should understand “The Interstate Wire Act” well before taking action in these practices. This is the core piece of legislation that covers this sort of gambling. The act makes it illegal for people to place bets using “wire communication “. Today this is widely acknowledged to include online transactions concerning gambling practices.
The safest way to practice this sort of fundraising event would be to handle all transactions in person and on private property, with funds recorded and bills issued to participants. Otherwise you risk breaking the law if you do it all digitally.
For many low scale events it is best to fit into the “Social Gaming” classification. Even if you are running a fundraiser, all US states permit social gaming. So following some simple steps to fall into this category can be a very good idea. Every state has distinct approaches to regulations and interpretations, but here are some generalized guidelines to keeping your event “Social” in nature and not professional.
1. Do Not Pay Yourself.
As the host, it becomes professional gambling when you take money from the income made by the “House”. As soon as you use this money for anything other than donations or event expenses you are personally earning payment from the event and this is not legal without a full gaming license from the gaming commission. You are, however, perfectly allowed to win at games and keep money paid to you from the house bank.
2. All Odds Must Be Equal, No Player Can Have An Advantage.
Games like poker and lottery events are popular partly for this very reason. They are completely fair, with no edges or advantages for any participant. So picking games with this aspect will keep your event social. Raffles and bingo are other alternative ideas that follow this point.
3. The Event Must Take Place In A Private Setting.
In almost every state, as soon as you run a revenue producing event in a public space, hire a commercial outlet or perform a group activity in a public venue, your practices can be considered professional. So to ensure your event is social, you should ensure the venue is a private home, or privately rented space with access granted only to invited guests. If you go to a table in a public bar for example and start a poker game for charity around one of the tables, the owner of the establishment as well as any authorities in the area might have something to say!
DISCLAIMER: The advice in this article is based on our layman interpretation of fundraising and home based gambling regulations. We have consulted a range of sources in an attempt to provide guidance that can be helpful for a wide range of people. None of the information should be taken as legal advice and should be used only as suggestive guidance. All gambling activity is performed at your own risk.