Who Can Hold a Raffle?

Are raffles or other games of chance allowed in the State of Tennessee?
Raffles and games of chance are considered gambling, which is prohibited in Tennessee. However, certain charitable organizations are allowed to apply to have one raffle, reverse raffle, cakewalk or cakewheel each year if that event is conducted in accordance with the procedures set forth in the Tennessee Charitable Gaming Implementation Law.

Who is allowed to hold a raffle?
Only a qualified 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(19) organization that has submitted an application to the Division of Charitable Solicitations and Gaming and that has been approved by the Tennessee General Assembly can hold a raffle.

What is a qualified 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(19) organization?
A qualified 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(19) organization is a group that has been recognized by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for at least five years as a tax-exempt organization and which has been in continuous and active existence in the State of Tennessee. 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(19) tax-exempt status can only be granted by the IRS. To learn more about the application process for tax-exempt status, please visit the IRS's web page for Charities & Nonprofits.

What types of gaming events are 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(19) organizations allowed to hold?
Raffles, reverse raffles, cakewalks, or cakewheels.

What is a raffle?
A raffle is a game of chance in which a participant is required to purchase a ticket for a chance to win a prize, with the winner to be determined by random drawing.

How do I know if a gaming event is approved?
The Division of Charitable Solicitations and Gaming maintains a list of approved events on its website at Gaming Events.

What gaming events are not allowed?
Bingo, poker games and/or tournaments, pulltabs, punchboards, video lottery games, instant and online lottery games, keno and games of chance associated with casinos including, but not limited to slot machines, roulette wheels, and the like. Events such as bingo or “casino nights” that are purely recreational in nature and in which participants are not required to pay to participate with the promise of a prize, jackpot, or “winner-takes-all” would not fall into this category.

What are the consequences for holding an unauthorized event?
If the Division of Charitable Solicitations is notified of an unapproved event, the Division will notify the local district attorney general. Conducting an unapproved game of chance may be a violation of the criminal gaming statute, and local law enforcement has jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute the individuals responsible for the event.

If I don’t call it a raffle or sell tickets, but ask for donations for a chance to win a prize, is that allowed?
No. An event is considered a raffle if someone must pay for a chance to win a prize and would be a violation of law. It does not matter that the payment is called a “donation.”

I am not raising money for a charity; I can conduct a raffle, right?
No. Only qualified 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(19) organizations that have applied and been approved are allowed to hold a raffle. Holding a raffle would be a violation of law and subject to criminal prosecution.

Are political candidates and campaigns allowed to conduct raffles or other games of chance?
No. The law only allows qualified 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(19) organizations to hold gaming events. Political candidates and campaigns for public office are not considered 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(19) tax exempt organizations.

If the political candidate or campaign asks for a donation to be entered into a drawing, is that allowed?
No. If someone is required to pay for a chance to win a prize, it is considered a raffle. Only qualified and approved 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(19) organizations may hold a raffle. It does not matter that the payment is called a “donation.”

Whom do I contact if I find out about a game of chance that is not approved?
Please contact the district attorney for the county in which you believe the game of chance is taking place or contact the Division of Charitable Solicitations at (615) 741-2555 and the Division will notify the appropriate authorities.