Games of Chance and Advertising

In Virginia, games of chance are usually illegal. However, the ones that are permitted -- bingo games, raffles and, since 1993, duck races -- are strictly governed under 18.2-340 of the Code of Virginia. Their regulation is the responsibility of the state Department of Charitable Gaming.

Who may hold a game of chance? 

Any religious, charitable, community and educational organizations may conduct these games. Volunteer fire and rescue squads, veterans groups and fraternal lodges also qualify ( 18.2-340.16). For-profit organizations may not conduct bingo, raffles or duck races. But in the 1990s, Virginia began allowing employees of corporate sponsors of the eligible organization to assist in conducting the games.

What is a duck race? 

Duck races became popular forms of charity fund-raising in the early 1990s. Numbered toy ducks are simultaneously dropped into a river or other flowing body of water and float 
downstream. A person wins the race when his or her numbered duck is the first to cross the finish line. The 1993 General Assembly added a definition of duck race to the state code ( 18.2-340.16[6]).

Are permits required? 

Yes. Qualified organizations must obtain a permit from the Department of Charitable Gaming before conducting games of chance. The permits are good for the time period specified on it unless it is revoked or suspended for any reason. Usually, permits become invalid after two years. No organization may hold more than one general permit to conduct games, but they may apply for special permits to hold games during multi-day events such as carnivals and fairs. 
The Code of Virginia has several requirements organizations must meet before they can be considered for a game permit. Unless there are special circumstances (national or international tie-ins, school booster club, etc.), the organization must have federal tax-exempt status and been in existence (and met regularly) for at least three years in the county, city or town, or in a neighboring community where it wants to conduct the games.

Can organizations choose where to sell raffle tickets? 

Yes. In 1993, the General Assembly amended the code to permit choice of locations. According to 18.2-340.26, qualified organizations may sell raffle tickets both in and out of the jurisdiction designated in its permit and shall conduct the drawing within the Commonwealth.

Can these games be advertised? 

Yes. The federal Charity Games Advertising Clarification Act of 1988 permits organizations that conduct games of chance (as defined by individual state laws) to advertise them in newspapers. There are no minimum or maximum size requirements for the ads. 

The federal act reads as follows: 

Sec. 1307. - Exceptions relating to certain advertisements and other information and to State-conducted lotteries 
The provisions of sections 1301 (importing/transporting lottery tickets), 1302 (mailing lottery tickets), 1303 (postmaster or employee as lottery agent), and 1304 (broadcasting lottery information) shall not apply to an advertisement, list of prizes, or other information concerning a lottery conducted by a State acting under the authority of State law which is contained in a publication published in that State or in a State which conducts such a lottery; or an advertisement, list of prizes, or other information concerning a lottery, gift enterprise, or similar scheme ... that is authorized or not otherwise prohibited by the State in which it is conducted and which is conducted by a not-for-profit organization or a governmental organization; or conducted as a promotional activity by a commercial organization and is clearly occasional and ancillary to the primary business of that organization.

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