South Carolina voters on Tuesday will be asked if they want to create a special exemption in the state’s gambling laws to allow charity raffles hosted by nonprofit groups.
Currently the state constitution has strict no-gambling language which technically bans any type of gambling (except the state lottery) in South Carolina. That includes raffles organized by nonprofits, even church or school groups. The issue flared up eight years ago, when the State Law Enforcement Division ordered the SC Lions Club to halt its motorcycle raffle because it was a violation of state law.
While there appears to be wide consensus in favor of charities raising money through the games, some groups are worried the language could create an illicit backdoor method for video poker or other organized gaming to return to South Carolina. But the Palmetto Family Council and Southern Baptist Convention agreed to drop their opposition after getting assurances in the proposed law that guard against for-profit companies operating the games.
State legislators by a combined 142-7 in the House and Senate to create the referendum last year.
To do that, measure creates some 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.
South Carolina Association of Nonprofit Organizations president Madeleine McGee said a “yes” vote could be a boon for many charity groups.
“For some nonprofits, a larger hospital per se, it’s probably not a very important tool,” she told South Carolina Radio Network. “For smaller nonprofits, youth groups, churches, rotary clubs, it’s a very easy and successful way to raise money from their followers.”
If voters approve the idea, legislators would have to ratify the constitutional changes next spring.
Voters will also be asked about a second constitutional amendment on Tuesday, dealing with whether or not to continue electing the state’s military chief.