Pro sports raffle bill clears its first hurdle in the Legislature

Professional sports teams want to change a 2001 voter-approved law to offer bigger raffle pots

SACRAMENTO — A bill that would allow professional sports teams to hold high-stakes, charitable raffles during games won overwhelming support from its first legislative committee.

On Wednesday, the Assembly Governmental Organization panel voted 10 to 2 to send the proposal to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Supporters, including the Los Angeles Dodgers and Angels baseball teams and the Ducks and Kings hockey clubs, want to change a 2001 voter-approved law to offer bigger raffle pots. Half the take would be given out as prizes and half would be earmarked for a charitable organization registered with the state.

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 10% of total revenue.

The bill, for now, has received guarded opposition from Native American tribes that operate casinos. But they said that much of their concerns might be addressed by amendments to the bill that were accepted by Jones-Sawyer during the committee hearing. A group representing nonprofit organizations, which previously criticized the sports raffle bill, failed to testify at the hearing.

The most significant change to the bill eliminated the use of a "random number generator," an electronic device, to select the winning ticket. Tribes said the generator is 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 are 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 his signature or veto.

Twitter: @MarcLifsher

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