I-Team: Why your holiday raffle could be illegal in Maine
AUGUSTA (WGME) - It's the season for holiday festivals and fundraisers and many of those events feature raffles, but the head of the state's Gambling Control Unit says many of those raffles are being done illegally.
These raffles and 50/50s are often done by non-profits and schools with great intentions.
Milt Champion, executive director of the Gambling Control Unit, says eligible non-profits can still have a raffle, but because it's a game of chance, you may need to register with the state depending on the value of the prize or prices.
The Festival of Trees is once again lighting up the Opera House in Boothbay Harbor.
The event is put on by the Boothbay Region Garden Club and raises money for student scholarships and to help decorate the town throughout the year.
"The garden club gives it all back to the community," said co-chair Kathleen Marty.
In addition to the silent auction, which raises most of the money part of the event features a raffle with 8 items up for grabs, including a fully decorated tree.
Eligible non-profits, like the Garden Club, are allowed to do raffles, but if the total value of all prizes is greater than $2,500, the raffle has to be registered with the state's Gambling Control Unit.
"This is our year of educating people to completely understand. We've been very cordial with all the organizations because let's face it, it's non-profit, it's for charity," Champion said.
Champion said the Boothbay Harbor event looks to be OK since the total value of the items is less than $2,500.
"We're not talking big money items," Marty said.
But Champion said a recent tree festival in Waterville that raffled off more than 70 trees and prizes and raised more than $200,000 for charity will need to be registered next year.
"We're going to help them. We don't say 'close it down, don't do it, you can't do it.' We say 'OK, what is you want to achieve? What is your end goal? This is how you can do it according to statute,'" Champion said.
Organizers of the Sukeforth Family Festival of Trees didn't respond to our questions about plans for next year.
An annual fundraiser for the Durham Fire Department, 30 guns in 30 days, will also need to be registered next year.
"You gotta total up the value of all those guns for 30 days. So that's 30 times the average gun: a couple hundred dollars," Champion said.
Using that math, the value of all prizes is well over the $2,500 threshold.
Organizers tell the I-Team they didn't register this year because they weren't aware it was necessary.
"It's a lot easier for anyone to just give us a call," Champion said.
The cost to register a raffle is $15 dollars for a week or less and up to $700 for a year-round raffle.