Washington Gaming Regulators Close Out 2023 With Guns, Cash And Raffles

November 22, 2023
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Washington state gaming regulators have rejected efforts to expand the sale of 50/50 raffle tickets outside an arena or stadium, despite the raffles' popularity with fans attending sporting events.
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Washington state gaming regulators have rejected efforts to expand the sale of 50/50 raffle tickets outside an arena or stadium, despite the raffles' popularity with fans attending sporting events.

A 50/50 raffle works just like any other raffle where participants purchase tickets for a chance to win a prize if their name or ticket number is drawn. In this case, the winner receives 50 percent of the total amount raised, with the other 50 percent donated to a local charity.

All raffles in the state are regulated by the Washington State Gambling Commission (WSGC).

Charitable foundations associated with the National Hockey League’s Seattle Kraken, Major League Baseball’s Seattle Mariners, the National Football League's Seattle Seahawks and Major League Soccer’s Seattle Sounders submitted the proposed changes to the electronic raffle rules.

Jacob Hall, manager social impact and development with the Kraken, told commissioners they would like the ability to sell tickets before fans enter the arena for a game, but not at home while watching a game. The teams also proposed variations in prizes, including signed team jerseys and ticket price variations.

The teams' petition also sought to replace paper raffle tickets and a manual draw of those tickets with an internal random section for selecting the winners.

That request was denied by WSGC staff, with Lisa McLean, rules coordinator and policy manager, saying it was “outside the scope of our regulations.”

“I want to remind everyone that once we start changing the raffle laws it impacts everyone, include raffles,” said state Senator Steve Conway, a Democrat and ex-officio regulator with the WSGC. “My concern is that the 50/50 raffle was always onsite and you had a ticket to the game.

“If you want to change the raffle law here, maybe we should address that in the legislature,” Conway said.

Hall reminded the commission that teams only have a “short amount of time” to sell tickets the way the regulations are currently written, which impacts the amount of money given back to charities in the communities. The average jackpot at a Kraken game is between $20,000 and $30,000 a night.

These electronic raffles have been operational in Washington for a year.

Commissioner Bud Sizemore opposed the petition, saying officials approved an expansion at their September meeting that allows minor league franchises to offer 50/50 raffles.

“So, for me it seems like this is premature because of the expansion,” Sizemore said. “Let’s allow minor league teams to have a year of experience and see how that goes.”

WSGC vice chair Julia Patterson said it was too early to deny the petition.

“I don’t know if this is a good idea or not,” Patterson said. “I’m not ready to say no now. I don’t know what will happen in two or three months.”

In the end, the commission voted 3-2 to deny the petition. Hall did not comment on whether the professional sports franchises would resubmit their petition next year.

The five-member commission on Thursday (November 16) also denied a request to modify self-exclusion rules, while a table games manufacturer withdrew a petition after staff recommended denial of a proposal to amend the requirement for cardrooms to carry enough cash to pay the largest single prize.

Dave Wisler, representing Masque Publishing, a licensed manufacturer in Washington with table games in both tribal casinos and commercial cardrooms, had proposed adding the Million Dollar Match the Dealer table game to the list after it was flagged when cardrooms needed to have $1m in their cage to comply with the regulation.

“The cardroom determined it could not safely meet this requirement, so unfortunately we had to remove the game.” Wisler told the commission at their monthly meeting last week.

Currently, WSGC rules require house-banked card game licensees to have sufficient cash on hand to redeem all chips issued for play and pay out all prizes, with at least $1,000 for each house-banked table on the gambling floor, plus the amount of the largest single prize available, excluding progressive, player-supported, and house jackpot prizes.

Wisler said he was not asking for this section of state gaming regulations to be removed, rather just amended to place the game on the list of excluded games. Eventually, Wisler agreed to withdraw his petition due to the likelihood of it being denied and instead will continue to negotiate with WSGC staff on a new petition.

During their last meeting for 2023, commissioners also directed staff to prepare a policy briefing for January or February on eliminating a state gaming regulation that currently allows charitable and non-profit organizations to raffle firearms to raise money.

The commission is considering eliminating the regulation after Democratic Governor Jay Inslee signed House Bill 1240 in April that bans the manufacture, import, distribution, sale or offer for sale of any assault weapon. The law is being challenged as a violation of the U.S. Constitution.

“I don’t know if allowing this is wise in our state,” Patterson said. “I know it is controversial but oh well.”

Commissioner Sarah Lawson said she wanted to make sure the regulation was constitutional with other state laws.

“I would support repeal, but we need a policy briefing,” Lawson said.

Sizemore reminded his colleagues that under the regulations organizations “can’t auction off a firearm that is not legal to be sold or manufactured in the state.” 

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