Veterans’ charity raffle shut down by Illinois Gaming Board

  • Unlicensed charity raffles prohibited by state laws
  • Many contests could be operating illegally statewide

A fundraising raffle for the Veterans of Foreign Wars with a $1 million prize has been halted by the organizers under the orders of the Illinois Gaming Board, reports the Chicago Tribune.

Jerry Peterson, Veterans of Foreign Wars
Jerry Peterson, Veterans of Foreign Wars

Local officials in Morris, where the draw was due to be held, are planning to update local laws to permit raffle games without the need for a gaming license. However, anti-gambling advocates feel that gambling laws are becoming too relaxed in the state and they continue to fight against ‘illegal’ charity raffle games.

Decades-old law prohibits unlicensed gambling

Gambling in Illinois is technically illegal, except for video gambling which was permitted in 2009. Some venues are also allowed to offer gambling services: the state has 10 land-based casinos and allows horse racing bets to be placed. Lottery games are also allowed. All of these games can take place only if they are licensed and regulated by the Gaming Board, and adhere to strict codes and rules.

However, raffles are seen as a little different, as many people do not class them as gambling. Raffles are a common way to raise money for good causes, and the prizes given away are often of low value while the profit goes to the charity.

Unfortunately, raffles are a gambling game by the letter of the law – and they need to be properly licensed. It was this legal point that got the VFW raffle closed down. Many others operating around the state could suffer the same fate, and the organizers may be unaware that their game is illegal.

Anti-gambling activist reports veterans’ raffle breach

The VFW raffle attracted attention due to its significant prize fund, reaching the desk of seasoned anti-gambling activist Kathy Gilroy. Gilroy alerted the Illinois Gaming Board of the unauthorized raffle, leaving no choice for the organizers except suspending the game.

The VFW plans to keep the ticket case sealed and the money on hold, rather than refunding the players, as they have faith that the game will go ahead in the near future. Lawmakers are not looking to relax historic legislation that restricts charity raffle games.

“I want the law to be followed, so everybody’s protected,” Gilroy told reporters.

She has been instrumental in the closing down of other charity raffle games and fundraising efforts, citing a need for player safety and a return to traditional values as her key motives. Illinois officials will now consider how charity raffles should be legislated for, and make way for the halted VFW raffle to reopen as soon as possible.

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