Raffles, Games of Chance and Poker 

 Fundraising Policy: Raffles, Games of Chance, and Poker

Raffles and games of chance can be used to solicit funds from students, faculty, and community members. Raffle roll tickets are available free of charge from the Bursar's Office. Specific raffle and games of chance guidelines are as follows:

1. Any tickets used for a raffle or program must indicate that any monetary consideration for the ticket was a donation to the sponsoring organization. Any entrance fee for the program can include the receipt of play money.

2. The prizes that may be redeemed with raffle tickets and/or paper money shall not be extremely valuable and cannot exceed a total value of $500. This is to ensure that a premium is not placed on winning.

3. No money, negotiable instrument, or monetary substitute can be given as a prize (i.e.: 50/50 raffles).

4. If a participant insists on being admitted to the game area without paying the entrance fee, he/she must be permitted to do so. If a participant insists upon playing any game for free, he/she must be permitted to do so, with the same privileges as a paying participant except for the eligibility for prizes.

5. No alcoholic beverages may be given as a prize nor served in the immediate vicinity of the game(s) or program.

6. Advertising cannot be door to door in any Ohio University building or residence unit nor shall it be placed in or played over anything except Ohio University publications, cable FM, or closed circuit radio. All advertising must be conducted on Ohio University owned or controlled property.

7. All income from any raffle or game must be placed in the sponsoring organization's bank account in the Bursar's Office. Income cannot be given or loaned out under any circumstances to any person.


Under Ohio law, when a person pays to play a game of chance (including poker) in hopes of winning a prize, the game qualifies as illegal gambling, unless the tournament organizers meet specific criteria and follow specific rules contained in the Ohio Revised Code.

Ohio law defines a "game of chance", i.e., gambling, to be "poker . . . or other game in which a player gives anything of value in hope of gain, the outcome of which is determined largely by chance." If your group wants to host legally a game of chance like poker, there are two approaches you can take: host the activity in such a way that it does not meet the definition of gambling or meet the specific rules that would allow you to host an event that is gambling.

Hosting a Non-Gambling Activity

The easiest way to avoid violating the law is to organize the activity in such a way that it does not qualify as gambling. For example, if participants do not pay anything to participate in a poker tournament, it does not qualify as gambling. If participants do not pay to play, you can offer prizes to winners.

Similarly, if the participants pay to participate in a tournament but no prizes are provided, the poker again does not qualify as gambling. In this situation, however, all proceeds must either benefit a charity and/or your student organization; no business or individual person may receive any of the proceeds.

Meeting the Requirements for Gambling

If your student organization does wish to organize a poker tournament involving both a fee to participate and prizes (thereby causing the poker to qualify as gambling), your organization must meet specific criteria and follow specific rules contained in the Ohio Revised Code. Your group must meet all of these criteria:

1. Your student organization must be a "charitable organization" as defined in Section 2915.01 of the Ohio Revised Code. While many student organizations will qualify as a charitable organization, it is very important to note that social fraternities and sororities do not qualify as a charitable organization under Ohio law.

2. Your organization must have a letter from the IRS stating that the organization is exempt from federal income taxation. Procuring such a letter from the IRS is a complicated and expensive undertaking that would likely require assistance from a lawyer or a tax professional and might take an extended period of time to accomplish.

3. The poker must be played on premises that have been owned by the student organization for at least one year, premises leased from a governmental unit (Ohio University is a governmental unit), or premises leased from a veterans or fraternal organization.

4. The poker tournament must be conducted at a festival of the student organization and may take place no more than twice a year if played for four consecutive days (or fewer) or once a year if played for five consecutive days.

5. All proceeds from the tournament, after deduction only of prizes paid out, must either be used by your student organization and/or donated to a charitable organization or a governmental unit; no business or individual person may receive any of the proceeds.

If you have further questions about how to conduct a "game of chance" or, more specifically, a poker tournament within the limits imposed by Ohio law, contact the Campus Involvement Center, 355 Baker University Center, 593-4025 or the Office of Legal Affairs, Pilcher House, 593-2626.