After years of finding creative ways to sell tickets for a special item without actually calling it a raffle (which was illegal), school organizations can now legally raffle off chances at a quilt, an autographed ball, or some other prize.
The new freedom for schools and specific "qualified organizations" comes as the result of Oklahoma's new State Lottery bill.
For years, Oklahoma legislators tried to find a way to allow non-profit groups to conduct raffles without opening the door to other more sophisticated types of gambling in the state by American Indian tribes.
Oklahoma's situation was unique because of its gaming agreements with the numerous tribes in the state.
"Youth organizations like 4-H, high school bands, churches, fire departments and senior citizens across this state needed a way to raise money," Senate Bill 837 author Senator Frank Shurden said. "They had to stop using fundraisers like drawings for quilts or a side of beef when the Attorney General's opinion deemed raffles illegal."
When voters passed State Question 705 establishing a state lottery for education, lawmakers included the raffle provision.
Traci Ballard, staff attorney and director of legislative services for the Oklahoma State School Board Association, explained the bill in the latest issue of the Oklahoma School Board Journal.
"The state's new raffle laws are pretty clear for public schools," Ballard stated. "Obviously, it is now legal for a school to raffle prizes in order to raise funds."
For other organizations, the lines are not as clearly defined.
"Qualified organizations" are spelled out as:
(1) a church,
(2) a public or private school accredited by the State Department of Education or registered by the State Board of Education for purposes of participating in federal programs,
(3) a student group or organization affiliated with a public or private school as listed in No. 2,
(4) a parent-teacher association or organization affiliated with a public or private school as qualified in No. 2,
(5) fire departments, police departments, livestock organizations and wildlife organizations, or
(6) an "organization" as such term is defined in paragraph 20 of Section 402 of Title 3A of the Oklahoma statutes.
That section of the law, according to Ballard, lists an "organization" as a "religious, charitable, labor, fraternal, educational, or other type of association or any branch, lodge, chapter or auxiliary of such association which:
* operates without profit to its members,
* has been in existence and operating as a nonprofit organization for not less than two years prior to applying for a license,
* is exempt from taxation according to IRS codes,
* formulates bylaws which clearly identify how officers are to be elected, the rights and privileges of each member, that each member has one vote, and that the membership rights are personal and not assignable.
Senator Johnnie Crutchfield (D-Ardmore), Senate co-author of the bill, said the law prdvents groups from hiring an outside organization to conduct the raffle.
"This part of the bill is important because we want all the money raised to go directly to the organization conducting the raffle, not some outside group that automatically takes a portion of the money simply to conduct the process," Sen. Crutchfield said.