Under Georgia law O.C.G.A.15-16-1, the sheriff is assigned four specific duties. They are to (1) maintain peace, (2) protect life, (3) protect property, and (4) provide services to the community. Beyond these four specific duties, there are also several duties required as a condition of the Sheriff’s oath of office. One of these duties that I must provide is the prevention, detection and investigation of criminal activity.
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?
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.
In Georgia, raffles are viewed as gambling and are strictly controlled. The Georgia Constitution (Article I, § 2, VIII [d]) allows nonprofit, tax-exempt organizations to conduct raffles. All others are prohibited. Even those nonprofit organizations must be licensed and such licenses, under Georgia law, must be issued by the sheriff.
Any other 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 that organization is headquartered. The fee for such license is limited by law to a maximum of $100 and the license is valid from the date of issuance until midnight on Dec. 31 of that year. During that year, the organization may conduct up to three raffles, 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.
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 concern you may have, please contact the Dougherty County Sheriff’s Office at (229) 430-6508.
Sheriff Kevin Sproul is a longtime resident of Dougherty County. He is a graduate of Albany High School, Darton College and LaGrange College of Albany. Sproul has been employed with the Dougherty County Sheriff’s Office since 1982 and can be reached at (229) 430-6508.