ROC board members and residents won’t be happy with this answer, but I believe ROCs are violating Florida’s gambling laws when their members conduct "50/50" drawings at community events.  Here’s what leads me to this unpleasant conclusion–and, please remember, I’m only the messenger:

  • F.S. Section 849.08 states that anyone who "plays or engages in any game at cards, keno, faro or other game of chance, at any place, by any device whatever, for money or other thing of value, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083".
  •  While a person may participate in certain "penny ante games" conducted under specific circumstances, "50-50" drawings are not included in the definition of a "penny ante game" in F.S. Section 849.085(2)(a).
  • The "50-50 drawing" appears to be a "drawing by chance" or "drawing," defined in F.S. Section 849.0935(1)(a) as "an enterprise in which, from the entries submitted by the public to the organization conducting the drawing, one or more entries are selected by chance to win a prize."  The only organizations that can conduct these drawings are those that are exempt from federal income taxation under certain categories of section 501(c) of the Internal Revenue Code.   I can’t see any ROC fitting within any of those categories (such as being a charitable or religious not-for-profit organization).
  • Even if a condominium, cooperative, or homeowners association somehow manages to qualify for 501(c) status, the ROC still has to comply with all the applicable provisions of chapter 496 of the Florida Statutes, which governs solicitation of funds–again, a difficult, if not impossible, task.
  • And, if by some miracle, the ROC has the appropriate 501(c) status and also manages to comply with the applicable provisions of chapter 496 of the Florida Statutes, the provisions of F.S. Section 849.0935(3) and (4)  include the additional requirement that any ticket used in connection with the drawing conspicuously discloses that no purchase or contribution is necessary to participate in the drawing (although the legislature has generously allowed organizations conducting these drawings to suggest a "minimum donation" in connection with the drawing).
  • Finally,  F.S. Section 849.11 provides that anyone who "sets up, promotes, or plays at any game of chance by lot or with dice, card, numbers, hazards or any other gambling device whatever for, or for the disposal of money" shall ( just as in F.S. 849.08) be guilty of a second degree misdemeanor.

We’ve all attended events where "50/50" drawings have occurred.  Many of us have purchased "50/50" tickets and a few of us may have even held one of the winning tickets.   No one is hurt, several lucky attendees walk away with a few extra dollars in their pockets, and the organization conducting the drawing makes a little money.   While it certainly seems improbable that any official of Florida’s law enforcement agencies would be concerned about any not-for-profit organization (church, charity, ROC or otherwise) conducting these "50/50" drawings, even if the "50/50" drawing technically violates the law, I found this article over a year ago while researching the issue for one of the ROCs we represent.  Apparently, at least in Pasco County, ROCs might want to think twice before conducting "50/50" drawings.

In any event, I’ll certainly understand if I’m not asked to draw the winning tickets at "50/50" drawings at the next ROC meeting I attend.