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Fund-raisers for charity not all a matter of chance

Numerous charitable or non-profit organizations engage in fund raising from time to time. One of the methods used is a drawing by chance or lottery. Because the unscrupulous will take advantage of the opportunity to make a profit, the public should be aware of the rules that govern the drawings by chance.

Before 1984, all lotteries involving a drawing-by-chance for a prize were illegal if one had to buy a chance, make a donation, pay an entry fee or admission, spend money, or give up anything of value. In 1984, however, the Legislature passed a special exception to Chapter 849 of the Florida Statutes, which is the general law prohibiting lotteries.

Section 849.0935 Florida Statutes, is titled "Charitable, non-profit organization; drawings by chance; required disclosures; unlawful acts and practices; penalties." This section provides that certain organizations that are charitable or non-profit and so qualified under 26 U. S. Code s.501(c)(3) (IRS Code) and Chapter 496 of the Florida Statutes may conduct "a drawing by chance" provided the following conditions are met:

I. All brochures, ads, notices, entry blanks or tickets must conspicuously disclose:

(a) The rules governing the drawing. (When, where, how drawing is conducted and if physical presence is required to win.)

(b) The name of the organization conducting the drawing and its place of business.

(c) The source of the funds used to award cash or to purchase the prizes (or, if the prize is donated, by whom).

(d) The date, hour and place of the drawing unless the tickets or entry blanks are not offered to the public more than three days prior to the drawing.

II. General Rules:

(a) Must be a drawing by chance; there cannot be any instant winners or any matching or preselected winning tickets.

(b) Cannot require entry fee, proof of purchase, or donation; sponsor can ask for a contribution but cannot require a contribution as a condition of entry. Simply stated, if someone walks up and wants a free chance or ticket, the sponsor must give them one.

(c) Sponsor cannot discriminate in any manner between paid or donation entries and those entries given away free. All entries must go into one hopper and have an equal opportunity to be drawn.

(d) Sponsor must promptly notify winners at the address placed on their entry blank and all prizes must be awarded.

Any sponsor or operator who engages in any act or practice in violation of Section 849.0935, Florida Statutes, is guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable by a fine and time in jail as provided in Section 775.082 and Section 775.083, Florida Statutes.

There is, however, an exception to this penalty. The exception concerns any operator or other person who sells or offers for sale in Florida a ticket or entry blank for a raffle without complying with the requirements that the date, hour and place where the winner will be chosen is conspicuously disclosed. If the tickets or entry blank are offered to the public more than three days prior to the drawing without the required information, it is a second-degree misdemeanor punishable only by a fine as provided in Section 775.083, Florida Statutes.

Be aware also that Section 849.0935 Florida Statutes does not apply to the Florida State Lottery operated pursuant to Chapter 24, Florida Statutes.

If you have been the victim of a crime or suspect that you have been, contact your local law enforcement agency. If the suspected crime involves any type of consumer fraud, you may call the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services at (800) 435-7352, or you may call the state attorney's office consumer information line at (904) 620-3752.

Herb Hoskins is an investigator in the state attorney's office. This is the third in a series of guest columns by members of the office's Public Interest Unit in Ocala.

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