Voters will now get to decide whether charity raffles should be legal in South Carolina.
The South Carolina House on Wednesday gave its approval to bills that would allow nonprofits to hold a limited number of raffles each year. Legislators voted 104-6 to put a referendum on the 2014 ballot asking voters if they wish to change the state constitution and allow the games.
At the same time, lawmakers also passed a sister bill that outlines how a legal raffle could be run and regulated. That law would take effect in 2015, if voters approve the change. That second bill will next head to Gov. Nikki Haley for her approval.
Sen. Ray Cleary (R-Georgetown) says the state constitution technically bans the games, but they happen anyway. “There’s just no reason that when somebody wants to do a fundraiser that they get into a problem where they’re told what they’re doing is illegal and they have to make a choice,” he told South Carolina Radio Network.
Several organizations— such as Lions clubs, Catholic Charities, and the Shriners— had halted their raffles since state law enforcement officials responding to a complaint halted a motorcycle raffle at a Lions club in Tega Cay several years ago.
The bill still creates restrictions. Only nonprofits would be allowed to host the games and 90 percent of the proceeds must go to charity. And nonprofits would only be permitted to operate up to four raffles per year. They would also be required to report their gross receipts to the SC Secretary of State’s office each year.
Lawmakers have tried for years to legalize raffles, but gambling opponents blocked those efforts out of fears the legislation could unintentionally legalize video poker and other forms of gambling. Indeed, most of those who voted against the bill expressed those concerns. However, the Palmetto Family Council supported the final version, saying it alleviated their concerns.
Cleary said he expects voters to approve the constitutional amendment. “When we had meetings two years ago, 95 to 98 percent of the people basically said, ‘Why aren’t we doing it? We need to make this legal.'”