According to the South Carolina Constitution, organized gambling is illegal in the state and that includes raffles that are commonly held by nonprofit organizations to raise money. Republican Senator Ray Cleary from Murrells Inlet is chief sponsor of a bill that would legalize both raffles and casino nights by religious, educational, charitable and other non-profit organizations–as long as they register with the secretary of state and abide by certain regulations. Cleary says the laws forbidding raffles in the state are largely being ignored. He hopes his legislation will bring some clarity and closure to the issue. Appearing on SCETV’s This Week in the Senate” Thursday, Cleary says hearings around the state showed 95 percent of the people were in favor of raffles, including the Palmetto Family Council which gave three reasons for supporting the measure.
Number one, unlike other forms of gambling, given certain guardrails, charitable raffles are not likely to cause gaming addiction. Number two, raffles provide revenue streams to worthy charities that have been operating in South Carolina for many years. And number three, legislative action is needed to clarify South Carolina law on raffles because charities have been unable to continue because of confusion over the law.
The bill would limit nonprofits to four raffles and two casino nights a year. Also 90 percent of the money raised must be earmarked for the charity.
Greenville Republican David Thomas says he has reservations about the proposed legislation. Thomas says he can envision a number of people forming groups around the state and labeling them as charities just to hold casino nights.
Under this thing, we don’t have to be 501c-3. We can get exempted under your code section in this bill. In this wide open door bill, you’re going to see thousands of newly created eleemosynaries holding casino nights all over the state. Basically, South Carolina is going to become a big Las Vegas.
The measure is now headed to the full Senate.