While a raffle might seem like an innocent and harmless way to have fun, raise money or entertain, the state of Ohio has criminal statutes that govern raffles and other bingo-type contests. Anyone running a raffle in the state without the proper license faces significant criminal penalties. Talk to an Ohio criminal defense attorney if you need legal advice about the state's criminal raffle laws.
Ohio Revised Code section 2915.01(HH) defines a raffle as a game, a form of bingo, in which participants can purchase a raffle ticket to win one or more prizes. Raffle organizers determine the prize winners by drawing ticket stubs or detachable ticket sections from a container or receptacle containing all the ticket stubs entered into the raffle. However, sporting event operators can give away free prizes with this same system as long as the ticket stub was part of the ticket purchased to attend a professional event and the ticket price remains the same as those for events in which the organizers offer no free prize.
Ohio Revised Code Section 2915.08 allows charitable organizations to hold raffles and bingo games only after they apply for and receive a license from the Ohio attorney general. The license applicant must file the application and pay a filing fee. The applicant must include information such as the name and address of the organization; a statement that the organization is a charitable organization that has operated in the state for at least two years; and the intended location of the raffle.
Ohio makes it a crime for anyone to hold a raffle or other bingo-type game without first obtaining a license to do so. Ohio Revised Code Section 2915.07 states that no one other than a charitable organization that has obtained a license can either conduct or advertise a raffle. Anyone who violates this law commits a fourth-degree felony. Ohio also classifies dealing in, selling, manufacturing or trading bingo or raffle supplies without a license as a first-degree misdemeanor.
Anyone convicted of a illegally operating a bingo or raffle in the state faces significant penalties. A single conviction brings the possibility of between six and 18 months in jail, as well as a $5,000 fine. Anyone convicted of operating as an illegal bingo manufacturer or dealer faces up to six months in jail and $1,000 in fines.