Friday, June 17, 2011

Is Raffle to Win Dinner with Obama Legal?

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Did you get your letter from Barack Obama inviting you to take part in a raffle?

We've heard of campaign raffles for door prizes, fruit baskets and tee shirts...but a dinner with the Leader of the Free World? And for a mere $5 donation?

That's the latest idea from the Obama 2012 presidential campaign, as evidenced by the letter -- signed by "Barack" himself -- that hit the inboxes of President Barack Obama's supporters, past donors and campaign email subscribers today.

It promises that four lucky winners will get dinner and a flight to dine with him. "This won't be a formal dinner..but a casual meal among friends," the fundraising letter from the president promises.

It was bad enough when the Lincoln bedroom was a reward for high rollers in the Clinton administration , but the Least Serious President in the History of the Republic™ has taken fundraising one step further. And there's also some question as to the legality of it.

According to wikipedia:
"Holding (a) raffle is illegal in much of the United States, although many jurisdictions make an exception for raffles in which proceeds go to charity."

Political fundraising is in no way, shape or form a charity, so, did Obama break the law in proposing a fund raising raffle? Or will only people from certain states be able to participate? And wouldn't that be discriminatory?

A list of raffle laws by state can be found here.

Legal or not, it seems to me to cheapen the office of the President to entice people to gamble for a shot at winning dinner with Barry, like some high school band raffling off a Thanksgiving turkey.

Well, when you put it that way, there may be a precedent!

Update: This puts me in mind of individuals who believed that they could simply raffle their houses off instead of selling them.

Georgia man arrested for raffling house

"(Only) Licensed non-profits can perform raffles."

"Man raffles home for $100 a ticket"

Questions about the legality of this scheme have been raised. ... the IL Raffle statute. Based on my reading (IANAL), it certainly looks illegal.

In Illinois, you apparently need a license to hold a raffle as well:

"Raffle" means a form of lottery, as defined in Section 28‑2 (b) of the "Criminal Code of 1961", conducted by an organization licensed under this Act, in which:
(1) the player pays or agrees to pay something of value for a chance, represented and differentiated by a number or by a combination of numbers or by some other medium, one or more of which chances is to be designated the winning chance;
(2) the winning chance is to be determined through a drawing or by some other method based on an element of chance by an act or set of acts on the part of persons conducting or connected with the lottery, except that the winning chance shall not be determined by the outcome of a publicly exhibited sporting contest.

Maybe we can get Eric Holder to look into this? (Stop laughing!)

Cross posted at LCR, Say Anything.


  1. I think the difference here is that folks are not simply buying a raffle ticket. They are donating to a campaign with the bonus of also winning a sit down dinner with the president. In such case, there must be no purchase necessary to enter. On this page we see such a disclaimer:

    "No purchase, payment, or contribution necessary to enter or win. Contributing will not improve chances of winning. Void where prohibited. Entries must be received by midnight on 9/30/11. You may enter by contributing to Sponsor at or click here to enter without contributing."

    1. The "no purchase necessary" disclaimer is nice, but still seems to reinforce the fact that this is a national (international?) raffle.

      "Void where prohibited." But I bet they took their money anyway.