Gambling -Type Events & Raffles

Guidance Relating to Raffles, Gambling-Type Events, and other Games of Chance

Our office frequently receives requests from student groups or employees with an interest in conducting fund-raisers and other similar-type events in support of FIU, which often include a “gambling”-type component (such as a raffle) as part of the program for the event. This guidance sets forth the requirements that must be followed in order to conduct raffles, office pools, charity poker events or other “gambling”-type activities at the University. This guidance deals only with legal requirements. Accordingly, you should consult with your supervisor or Student Affairs, as applicable, to obtain the appropriate approvals.

It is important to adhere to these guidelines because in Florida, raffles, gambling activities, or other games of chance (such as office pools), may only be conducted under very limited circumstances and individual criminal liability may exist for those who conduct or participate in any such activities falling outside these guidelines.

If your department or group wishes to conduct a gambling-type activity not addressed in this guidance or if you have any questions about these matters, please contact the Office of the General Counsel.

    1. Charity Raffles and other Drawings

Florida law generally prohibits lotteries or other drawings of chance. However, Florida law expressly permits certain specified §501(c) organizations (such as the FIU Foundation, Inc.) to conduct drawings by chance subject to the notice requirements and limitations set forth below 1. On-campus raffles or drawings must be conducted by or on behalf of a §501(c) organization and must comply with ALL of the following:

      1. All brochures, advertisements, notices, tickets, or entry blanks used in connection with the drawing by chance must conspicuously disclose:
        1. The rules governing the conduct and operation of the drawing (e.g., a random drawing at a specified time).
        2. That no purchase or contribution is necessary.
        3. The full name of the organization and its principal place of business.
        4. The source of the funds used to award cash prizes or to purchase prizes (e.g., in-kind contributions from a specified sponsor).
        5. The date, hour, and place where the winner will be chosen and the prizes will be awarded, unless the brochures, advertisements, notices, tickets, or entry blanks are not offered to the public more than 3 days prior to the drawing.
      2. In addition to the requirements for the event materials, the following conditions apply:
        1. Winners may not be “rigged” or predetermined.
        2. No entry fee, donation, substantial consideration, payment, proof of purchase or contribution may be required as a condition for entering the drawing or being selected to win a prize. (However, suggested minimum donations are expressly permitted.)
        3. The drawing may not be conditioned on distribution of a minimum number of tickets or receipt of a minimum of contributions.
        4. The sponsors of the event may not arbitrarily reject, remove or disqualify any entry or discriminate in any manner between entrants who gave contributions and those who do not.
        5. The winner must be promptly notified, at the address set forth on the entry blank or in person at the event, of the fact that the person won.
        6. All prizes offered must be actually awarded in the manner and at the stated time.
        7. Materials or advertisements in connection with the drawing may not contain false, deceptive or misleading information.
        8. Once drawing tickets have been issued at the event, the drawing cannot be cancelled.
        9. Receipt of the prizes may not be conditioned on the winner making a donation or contribution.
        10. The number of tickets distributed to each drawing entrant may be limited.
    1. Games of Chance (such as office pools, charity poker events, etc)

As a general matter, Florida law makes it a criminal offense to play or engage in any game at cards, keno, roulette, faro or other game of chance, at any place, by any device whatever, for money or other thing of value.

University units or student organization wishing to conduct a game of chance (such as an office pool, charitable poker event or other similar activity) must comply with ALL of the following:

      1. There must be no entrance fee, but players may make a donation (which cannot be made a condition to play the game).
      2. Participants may not play for cash winnings or any tangible thing of value (e.g., for any item with a retail or resale value).
      3. A nominal award such as a certificate or trophy in recognition of each participant’s level of achievement is acceptable.
    1. Charity Casino-Themed Activities

Casino-themed events for charity raise unique problems. While Florida law does not ban such events, Florida law generally bans the possession of gambling equipment commonly used for the operation of gambling, such as roulette wheels or tables, crap tables or layouts, bolita balls, chips with house markings, etc., and only licensed vendors may possess such equipment. However, ordinary dice and playing cards are exempt from this prohibition.

Accordingly, in order to conduct a charity casino-themed event, the following requirements apply:

      1. The event must be conducted solely for a charitable purpose.
      2. There must be no entrance fee. Donations are permissible, but cannot be made a condition to play.
      3. A reputable vendor licensed to provide the casino equipment must be used (particularly for a major fund-raising event).
      4. Participants may not play for cash winnings or any tangible thing of value (e.g., for any item with a retail or resale value).
      5. A nominal award such as a certificate or trophy in recognition of each participant’s level of achievement is acceptable.
    1. Special Rules for Games of Chance Within University Housing Facilities

Florida law provides a limited exception for certain games of chance to take place within a residential dwelling, including a university dormitory. Specifically, games such as poker, pinochle, bridge, rummy, canasta, hearts, dominoes, or mah-jongg are permitted within dormitory rooms or the common recreational areas of university dormitories provided that:

      1. the winnings of any player in a single round, hand or game do not exceed $10 in value;
      2. no person receives any payment for permitting the game to take place;
      3. no admission or other fee is charged for participation in the game;
      4. no advertising of the game takes place; and
      5. all participants are over 18 years of age.
    1. Bingo Activities

As a general matter, organizations engaged in charitable, civic, community, benevolent, religious, or scholastic works or other similar endeavors may conduct bingo games or instant bingo, provided the entire proceeds derived from the conduct of such games (less expenses for holding the bingo event), are donated by such organizations to the endeavors mentioned above. For additional rules for the conduct of bingo games, see Fla. Stat. §849.0931.

1 Although the University, as a public body corporate of the State of Florida, is exempt from taxation under the Internal Revenue Code, the University is not a 501(c) organization and therefore does not qualify to conduct a drawing of chance pursuant to the limited exception under Florida law for qualified 501(c) organizations. If you wish to conduct a raffle or other drawing of chance to raise funds on behalf of the University, contact the FIU Foundation office.