Bill to allow high-stakes raffles at pro sports games clears panel

SACRAMENTO -- A bill that would allow professional sports teams to hold high-stakes raffles at games to benefit charities won overwhelming support from its first legislative committee.

On Wednesday, the Governmental Organization panel voted, 10-2, to send a proposal by Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer to the Appropriations Committee.


Supporters, including the Dodgers and Angels baseball teams and the Ducks and Kings hockey clubs, want to change a 2001 ballot measure to provide fatter raffle pots. Half the take would be given out as prizes and half would be earmarked for a charitable organization.

Such so-called 50-50 raffles now are legal in 28 states and a number of Canadian provinces. They regularly produce pots of more than $100,000, supporters said.

"The results have been spectacular," said the bill's author, Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles).

Current law limits prizes for raffles, including those held by church groups, youth sports and PTAs, to no more than one-10th of total revenue.

The bill, for now, has received guarded opposition from Native American tribes that operate tribal casinos. But much of their previous concerns might have been reduced by amendments to the bill that were accepted at the committee hearing.

The most significant eliminates the use of a "random number generator," an electronic device to select the winning ticket. Tribes fretted that use of the generator is very similar to the mechanism that picks winners in slot machines and electronic bingo games.

Other amendments would base the split between prizes and charities on the gross receipts from the raffle rather than the net after administrative expenses were deducted.

A third amendment would automatically "sunset" the effect of bill in three years should it becomes law. A detailed study would need to be submitted to the Legislature before such raffles could be reauthorized.

The bill, AB 1691, needs support from two-thirds of the members of both houses of the Legislature to be sent to the governor for signature or veto. It now moves to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Twitter: @MarcLifsher