Whether for charitable fundraising purposes or simply gambling revenue, Illinois law covers all revenue streams created by games of chance. The easiest way to understand gambling in Illinois is that all gambling is illegal unless specifically allowed by the Criminal Code. For example, the Criminal Code specifically allows, among a variety of forms of gambling, riverboat gambling pursuant to the Riverboat Gambling Act, video gaming pursuant to the Video Gaming Act, the State-conducted lottery pursuant to the Illinois Lottery Law, and raffles and poker runs when conducted in accordance with the Raffles and Poker Runs Act.
Therefore, unless a raffle is licensed and operated in accordance with the Raffles and Poker Runs Act and all applicable local laws, it is considered illegal gambling. In general, only bona fide nonprofit religious, charitable, labor, business, fraternal, educational or veterans’ organizations may be issued a raffle license. Does your business allow other organizations to host charity raffles or poker nights on your premises? Although this may help create foot traffic and revenue for you, it can put you in a sticky legal situation if the organization isn’t properly licensed.
The rules and regulations outlined in the Raffles and Poker Runs Act are definitely worth looking into, for peace of mind and to make sure your business is following the law. The Raffles and Poker Runs Act, in its entirety, can be found here.
Under the Raffles and Poker Runs Act, counties and municipalities are able to craft their own raffle ordinances, provided they comply with state law. Without such an ordinance, a municipality cannot properly issue a raffle license that complies with state law.
The municipality should have an application process in place in order to issue a raffle license. The application must contain certain requirements, including a sworn statement signed by the presiding officer and secretary of the applicant, attesting to its non-profit character. Notably, the entire net proceeds of a raffle must be exclusively devoted to the lawful purposes of the nonprofit organization licensed to conduct the raffle.
Even if a raffle being held at your establishment is for charity, there are several nuances in the Raffles and Poker Runs Act that non-profit organizations must adhere to in order to obtain a license to operate such a raffle. It is possible that these regulations may go unenforced at the local level, but that doesn’t excuse noncompliance with State law. Further (and arguably, most importantly!), if you are licensed by the Illinois Gaming Board (“IGB”) to have video gaming at your establishment, and you run or host an improper raffle, your IGB license could be in jeopardy.
Understanding the legal requirements for any type of gambling that is taking place at your establishment is paramount in protecting your business. Being left in the dark could put you at serious risk for legal ramifications. Don’t forget to check in every so often and make sure your business is caught up on any changes within the Illinois gaming market at both the state and local level!