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Rhode Island Charitable Gaming

Charitable gaming was authorized by the Rhode Island General Assembly in 1979. Permitted games at that time included raffles, Las Vegas nights, poker nights, week club raffles and bazaars. The newly formed State Police Charity Gaming Unit was given regulatory authority over charitable gaming because the lottery commission lacked adequate enforcement capability. In 1983, the legislature moved oversight of bingo to the State Police Charity Gaming Unit, and in 1993, legislators amended the charitable gaming statute by prohibiting Las Vegas nights and similar games, leaving only raffles, bazaars and bingo as permitted charitable gaming activities. Licensed charitable organizations can also sell pull-tab lottery tickets obtained from the Lottery Commission. All net proceeds – sales less qualified expenses – must be used for charitable purposes.

A charitable organization must have a charter from the state designating it as a nonprofit and be established for a minimum of two years before applying for a license.

Charitable gaming licenses fall into two categories – bingo and raffles. A bingo license requires the application to be submitted to the State Police Gaming Unit. If granted a license, the Gaming Unit sends a copy to the Chief of Police located where the bingo game will run. It is the responsibility of the bingo applicant to check with local licensing authorities for additional licensing requirements. For a raffle license, an applicant must first apply to the local police department where the games are to take place. Once all records are checked by local police, the application is sent to the Gaming Unit for authorization. The fee for each license is $5. An application must be submitted no later than 60 days before the event. A license is valid for one year, and renewal applications must be filed by 1 September.

The General Law provides a Special Bingo license for organizations, such as church bazaars, which will not run bingo more than once in a six-week period and will not award prizes valued at more than $300. The license includes a narrower set of rules for game operation and reporting.

Organizations are required to charge at least $2.50 for six Regular (hard) Bingo Cards. This minimum price allows the charitable organization to set its own prices for additional Regular Bingo Cards, Extra Regular Bingo Cards and Special Game Cards. When operating a bingo event, organizations are required to have players buy an admission control card to enter the bingo facility. The admission card can be used for a door prize raffle, if the organization requested it when applying for the license and the raffle was approved. There cannot be more than five awards in one door prize raffle, and the total value of the awards cannot exceed $100 per event. There is a limit of 45 games that can be conducted by an organization at a single bingo event.

The internet may only be used to advertise licensed games of chance. It may not be used to purchase tickets. Tickets must be purchased by mail or in person.
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