Is Obama Running an Illegal Lottery?

According to Boston.com, Barack Obama is offering 10 lucky supporters all expense paid trips to Denver.  The only catch, you need to give him some scratch.  In Massachusetts that is considered a raffle or charity lottery.  Running a raffle by anything other than a few types of charities or clubs in Massachusetts is illegal.

From Boston.com:

For Obamamaniacs, this would be like winning the lottery.

Barack Obama announced this afternoon, via a video message, that 10 supporters and one guest each will get an all-expenses-paid trip to Denver next month — and will get backstage access at Invesco Field when he accepts the Democratic presidential nomination on Aug. 28.

The only catch: You have to give some money to his campaign by July 31.

In the message, which features panoramic views of the 75,000-seat football stadium, Obama promises “an experience you’ll never forget at what he calls “the biggest public event of this election so far.”

From the Mass Lottery Website:

RAFFLE AND CASINO NIGHTS

Charitable Gaming Division, Raffles/Bazaars (Casino Functions)

   Organizations that have obtained a raffle and bazaar permit from the local city or town clerk are entitled to conduct an unlimited amount of raffles during the period the permit is valid (one year from the date of issuance). The permit also allows a maximum of three (3) Casino Nights to be sponsored.

   The definition of a Bazaar is NOT your local Church bazaar. The law defines a Bazaar as a Casino or Las Vegas Night.

   The Lottery Commission acts strictly as a tax collector in the area of raffles and casino nights. We do not have the authority to either deny a permit or require one to be issued. The local licensing officials (City/Town Clerk and Chief of Police) determine whether or not your organization is eligible for the permit under the law. If a permit is issued, the Lottery Commission is notified and will forward the appropriate tax forms.

   There are two (2) sets of regulations governing Casino Nights. If your organization does not hold a Beano license and will not be sponsoring your Casino night in a hall that holds a Beano license, the Office of the Attorney General promulgates the regulations that must be followed. The regulation is 940 CMR 13.00. The Lottery Commission can provide these regulations.

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Raffles and Casino Nights (Bazaars)

Organizations wishing to conduct a Raffle or Casino Night in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts must first obtain a raffle and bazaar permit from the local city/town clerk in the city/town where the drawing or casino night will be held. The law governing Raffles and Bazaars is Chapter 271, 7A of the Massachusetts General Laws. Any organization conducting a raffle or bazaar in the Commonwealth must pay a 5% tax on the gross proceeds. This is an excise tax on wagering and must be paid by all organizations.

MGL Chapter 271, 7A defines the organizations that can hold such nights:

No raffle or bazaar shall be promoted, operated or conducted by any person or organization, unless the same is sponsored and conducted exclusively by (a) a veterans’ organization chartered by the Congress of the United States or included in clause (12) of section five of chapter forty of the General Laws; (b) a church or religious organization; (c) a fraternal or fraternal benefit society; (d) an educational or charitable organization; (e) a civic or service club or organization; and (f) clubs or organizations organized and operated exclusively for pleasure, recreation and other nonprofit purposes, no part of the net earnings of which inures to the benefit of any member or shareholder. Such organization shall have been organized and actively functioning as a nonprofit organization in the commonwealth for a period of not less than two years before it may apply for a permit. The promotion and operation of the raffle or bazaar shall be confined solely to the qualified members of the sponsoring organization and no such member shall receive remuneration in any form for time or effort devoted to the promotion or operation of such raffle or bazaar. All funds derived from any raffle or bazaar shall be used exclusively for the purposes stated in the application of the sponsoring organization which purposes shall be limited to educational, charitable, religious, fraternal or civic purposes or for veterans’ benefits.

At BarackObama.com they do say you can participate in this program without donating, but all it seems to say is you can get a ticket to the big event, not the backstage passes.  Attorney General Coakley and Treasurer Cahill should look into this to make sure it follows Massachusetts Law.

About Rob "EaBo Clipper" Eno