Corporate Records Inspection Part 3: California Attorney General Nonprofit Raffle Registration and Report


Get your raffle tickets! Many valuable prizes! The more you buy, the better your chances. Proceeds will be used for a good cause!

Sounds tempting, but is it legal? Maybe.

The general rule is that conducting raffles in the State of California is a misdemeanor under California Penal Code Section 320 punishable by imprisonment in the county jail for up to six months, by fine not exceeding one thousand dollars, or by both. This should not come as a surprise. Raffles have been illegal in California for over 100 years. When the California Constitution was first written in 1849, Article IV, Section 27 stated, “No lottery shall be authorized by this State, nor shall the sale of lottery tickets be allowed.” The term “lottery” includes raffles as we know them.

However, things have changed since 1849. The California Constitution has been amended more than 500 times and has become the third longest constitution in the world. It is now eight times longer than the U.S. Constitution. Among the many amendments were several exceptions to the “no lottery” rule.

While the California Constitution still contains a general prohibition against lotteries in the state, Section 19(d) specifically authorizes the establishment of a California State Lottery , Section 19(c) specifically authorizes bingo games for charitable purposes, and Section 19(f) (second paragraph), specifically authorizes raffles conducted by eligible organizations for a charitable purpose effective July 1, 2001.

“Ah ha! So, all is well,” you may say. Not necessarily. The raffle exception is not a blanket approval of all raffles. Instead, it is a very limited authorization for some organizations to conduct raffles for certain purposes provided they comply with all of the requirements set forth in the California Penal Code.

What Are the Raffle Requirements?

The raffle requirements are set forth in California Penal Code, Section 320.5 and California Code of Regulations, Title 11, Sections 410-426 and are described in the remainder of this article.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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