Raffle Laws in the US and Canada: How to Run a Legal Raffle

How to Avoid Legal Trouble When Running a Raffle

Raffle Ticket
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Most people have participated in raffles for a good cause, such as supporting a church, a school, or a local sports team. Raffles are excellent fundraisers — but they have legal restrictions, too. That means, if you want to run one yourself, you should get to know how to do them right.

Here are some general tips on how to run a legal raffle that won’t get you or your organization into hot water.


Laws vary by location and change rapidly. While these tips are intended to help you start research on your raffle, don't them as valid legal advice! Be sure to get up-to-date and customized advice from a legal professional before starting any raffle.

What Raffles Are & Why They're Regulated

A raffle is a form of gambling where people pay money to buy tickets that give them chances of winning prizes. The winner is drawn from among all the people who entered, meaning it's a type of randomly-drawn gambling game. That's an important legal distinction from, say, contests that are judged on the entrant's skill.

If you're using a raffle as a fundraiser, you're holding a personal raffle — a raffle that's offered by an organization and not the government. This is important because of how similar raffles are to lotteries.

In many countries, including the United States, personal lotteries are prohibited. Only the government, not individuals or private companies, is legally allowed to run lotteries.

Raffles and lotteries both have the same three defining elements:

  1. Consideration (the entry exchanges money or something else of value for the chance to win).
  2. The prize has monetary value.
  3. The winner is drawn randomly.

When all three of those elements are present in a drawing, you have, by definition, a lottery. Take away at least one of them — consideration, for example — and you have a legal giveaway instead of a prohibited lottery.


Read more about this subject in the article, The Difference Between Sweepstakes and Lotteries,

Raffles have all three elements, which technically makes them prohibited. However, many jurisdictions make exceptions for fundraising raffles. Those exceptions apply to certain types of organizations (like schools and churches), for raffle prizes whose value is under a certain amount, and other reasons.

Here’s how to check whether your organization can run a legal raffle:

Running a Legal Raffle in the United States

In the United States, raffles (as well as lotteries and other forms of gambling) are controlled by a combination of state and federal law. That means the ability to run a raffle and its legal requirements vary depending on your location.

Currently, raffles are legal with various restrictions in 47 of the 50 states. The states that prohibit raffles altogether are Alabama, Hawaii, and Utah.

To find out what you need to do to run a legal raffle, you need to check the raffle laws for your state. You can do this by:

  • Running an internet search for “raffle laws” + your state.
  • Checking a site like Chance2Win.org, which lists raffle laws for all states and where to find more information and apply for any necessary permits.
  • Consulting with a gaming lawyer. This gives you the most current and reliable raffle information (at a cost).

Depending on the laws of your state, you might need to register your raffle ahead of time. You might be restricted by business or organization type. You might even be allowed to hold only a certain number of raffles per year. These are all things you'll need to research in advance.

How to Run a Legal Raffle in Canada

Canada allows charitable organizations, and only charitable organizations, to hold raffles as fundraisers As in the United States, the details vary by province.

Raffle laws are handled by three different groups: the Criminal Code of Canada, the Competition Bureau Canada, and local municipalities.

Here’s a brief run-down of the raffle laws in each Canadian province at the time of writing:

  • Ontario: Depending on the size of the prizes to be awarded, charitable organizations in Ontario need to apply for either a municipal or a provincial license.. Businesses must prove eligibility. To qualify, they must be a charitable organization that has been in business for at least a year and has a location in Ontario.
  • British Columbia: Raffles in British Columbia are regulated by the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch (GPEB) of the province’s government. To be eligible, you must have a not-for-profit or community organization that is raising funds to benefit the community. You must apply for a license in advance.
  • Quebec: Three types of organizations can run raffles in Quebec: those donating the money to charity, people who are operating a fair or exhibition, and vendors at a fair or exhibition with a concession license. Get more details from Canada Ticket Printing.
  • Alberta: Raffles in Alberta are managed by the Alberta Gaming & Liquor Commission (AGLC). Non-profit and community organizations must first prove they are eligible, and then they must apply for a license before running a raffle.
  • Nova Scotia: Charities, religious organizations, and non-profit community organizations can legally run raffles in Nova Scotia if they apply for a license in advance. See the Nova Scotia Alcohol and Gaming Division website to apply or to get more information.
  • Saskatchewan: Before you run a raffle in Saskatchewan, you need to submit documentation to the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority (SLGA). You’ll need to prove that your organization is an eligible non-profit and provide some information about the raffle. Your license fees will depend on the size of the raffle you are running.
  • Newfoundland and Labrador: Several types of groups can run raffles in Newfoundland and Labrador, according to the Newfoundland and Labrador government website. Examples include nonprofit fire departments, church groups, colleges, scout groups, and more. A specific person in each organization must apply for a license in advance.
  • Manitoba: The Liquor, Gaming, and Cannabis Authority of Manitoba allows charitable and religious organizations to run raffles; they also allow one-off raffles for certain social occasions. All raffles must be licensed in advance.
  • Prince Edward Island: Prince Edward Island has very specific requirements about who can run raffles. For example, only non-profit and charitable organizations can apply, and the funds raised by the raffle must be used for specific causes. You can read more about them on the PEI government website
  • New Brunswick: In New Brunswick, legal lotteries may be held only by charitable organizations, and the money raised by the raffle must be used for a charitable object or purpose. If the value of the prizes to be raffled off is less than $500, you can apply for a simple permit. Otherwise, you’ll need to get a license in advance. See the New Brunswick Government website for more information.

If you have any questions about whether your raffle is legal or whether you have gone through all of the necessary steps, it’s always wise to consult a lawyer who is knowledgable in the subject. Making a mistake can be a costly, and even criminal, offense.