An antiquated state law that has squeezed the budgets of well-meaning groups statewide could finally be on the road to repeal, and it’s about time.
South Carolina is one of only four states to outlaw charity raffles.
Now, even longtime gambling opponents have softened their opposition to changing that centuries-old law.
Recently, a Senate panel moved forward legislation that would allow voters to address the issue during the November 2014 election.
A referendum is necessary because changing the law requires an amendment to the state constitution.
If approved, the new law would take effect the following year.
Under the proposal, nonprofits, including churches and schools, could hold a limited number of raffles annually.
The measure also caps the cost of a ticket in any given raffle at $100 and limits the prize total to $250,000 per event.
Nonprofit groups registered through the S.C. Secretary of State’s Office could hold four raffles each year.
Groups raffling prizes valued at less than $500 wouldn’t have to register.
The bill also bans poker-themed events, and prohibits organizers from profiting from such events.
Current law has dramatically hindered some groups already struggling to provide services during a wallet-tightening recession.
Statewide, Lions Clubs have lost an estimated $500,000 a year since authorities threatened to arrest officials running a raffle at a Tega Cay club, state Lions Club President Gregg Turner told The Associated Press.
In turn, Turner told 160 clubs statewide to stop all raffles, meaning fewer dollars for hearing aids and eye surgeries for those in need.
If approved, this change would rectify two glaring inconsistencies within current state law.
First, the current prohibition is not evenly enforced. One civic club could hold a raffle, raising money for a worthy cause.
Local officials, business leaders and even law enforcement officers might attend.
The event proceeds without a hitch.
The next week, in a neighboring town, another branch of the civic group holds a similar fundraiser, and the organizers are arrested.
Officials say the law is enforced only when someone complains about a raffle.
That disparity is reason enough to revoke the law.
Second, the state has already staked its position with regard to any moral quandary over organized games of chance.
Since January 2002, the state has operated its education lottery, generating billions of dollars in revenue - money spent by residents hoping to win prizes that sometimes reach into the hundreds of millions.
For the state to operate such a cash cow while denying community groups the ability to raise money through raffles is pure hypocrisy.