How is Zeffy free?
How is Zeffy free?
Zeffy relies entirely on optional contributions from donors. At the payment confirmation step - we ask donors to leave an optional contribution to Zeffy.
Learn more >
Raffle laws

California Raffle Laws: Are Raffles Legal? [2024]

May 11, 2023

In the United States, each state has its own set of definitions and laws that dictate what is considered a raffle, which organizations are permitted to host a raffle, and what is required to legally host a raffle.

Yes, the first raffle you host can be time consuming and confusing, but all the time and energy invested is ultimately worth it. (Some of the biggest campaigns on Zeffy are raffles. AKA raffles raise a lot of money for the nonprofits that host them.) Plus, raffles are a great way to mix up your fundraising campaign portfolio and, as an added bonus, attract new donors to your nonprofit.

We’re here to help by walking you through the process on how to host a raffle and we’ve even got a few tips on how to sell raffle tickets.

Okay, let’s get started.

The state of California defines a nonprofit raffle as:

…a scheme for the distribution of prizes by chance among persons who have paid money for paper tickets that provide the opportunity to win these prizes.1

Who can host a raffle in California?

Any private, nonprofit organization that has been qualified to conduct business in California for at least one year prior to conducting a raffle and is exempt from taxation. That means that your nonprofit does not need 501(c)(3) status to host a raffle in California.

(If your nonprofit qualifies under sections 23701a, 23701b, 23701d, 23701e, 23701f, 23701g, 23701k, 23701l, 23701t, or 23701w of the Revenue and Taxation Code, you’re all good.1

You can verify your tax exempt status on the Franchise Tax Board’s website. (It’s easy!) If you qualify, the raffles must then:

  • Be conducted by the nonprofit and it’s employees. No outside vendors or third parties can be used.2
  • Support charitable organizations in California.2

And, if you meet the nonprofit eligibility requirement, you must also:

  • Be in good standing with the Attorney General’s Office.
  • Be in good standing with the raffle registration registry.
  • The draw must take place in California under the supervision of an adult (18+).1

How does a nonprofit register for a raffle in California?

A raffle registration year in California starts on January 1 and ends on December 31. You can register any time after October 1 for the following year. To register, just fill out the CT-NRP-1 form and pay the $30 registration fee.

You need to register for a nonprofit raffle license at least 60 days BEFORE the scheduled date of your raffle to make sure the registry staff have enough time to process your form.3

We've even created a raffle registration checklist to guide you through the process of registering.

Download our California nonprofit raffle checklist here.

Can you sell raffle tickets online in California using Zeffy’s online raffle forms?

Unfortunately, for now, you cannot operate or conduct an online raffle in California. We know, we think it’s a bit of an outdated rule too.

But, what does “operate or conduct a raffle over the internet” mean? Well, you can’t use Zeffy’s event and free online raffle platform to sell or redeem your raffle tickets. California law also states that “an eligible organization shall not be deemed to operate or conduct a raffle over the internet, or sell raffle tickets over the Internet”.1

So, can a nonprofit sell raffle tickets using Zeffy? Not yet. But, when it comes to hosting a nonprofit raffle in California, you can still use Zeffy for:

  • Track your raffle sales by adding offline ticket purchases to your campaign.
  • Track of who purchased what and their info (such as email addresses and phone numbers) so you can contact the winner(s).
  • Keep track of how many tickets you have sold, any additional donations, etc.
  • Automatically create a contact list to send thank-you emails, re-engage with donors and even let donors know when next year’s raffle comes along.

The state of California also allows you to use the internet to:

  • Advertise your raffle. (Newsletters, banners, etc.)
  • Display the rules of the raffle.
  • Store raffle contact information for your nonprofit, including the eligible organization’s name, address, telephone number, facsimile number, or e-mail address.
  • Allow participants to download raffle entry forms for manual completion by raffle ticket purchasers. (But, the forms cannot the submitted online.)
  • Answer frequently asked questions.
  • List descriptions, photographs, or videos of the raffle prizes.
  • List the prize winners.

California laws on raffle tickets.

There aren’t too many must haves on raffle tickets in California.

Each ticket you sell has to have a detachable coupon or stub, and both the ticket and its coupon or stub need to be marked with a unique and matching number.1

So, you can purchase pre-made tickets or get inspired by our sample ticket:

Does it cost money to register for a lottery?

There is a raffle registration fee $30 associated with the CT-NRP-1 form.

After your nonprofit raffle…

Your work doesn’t end when the last ticket stub is drawn. In California, if you registered to host a raffle, you must complete and submit the Nonprofit Raffle Report: CT-NRP-2 by February 1 for the previous year. You have to complete the form regardless of the number of raffles you held during the registration period—even if you ended up not holding any.

We know, we know. Needless paperwork is a bit annoying. But, that’s how it is.

California Raffle Laws - FAQ

Are raffles legal in California?

Yes, nonprofit religious organizations, schools, colleges, hospitals, and private nonprofit organizations with state tax-exempt status can hold fundraising raffles in California. Check with the franchise tax board.

Are 50/50 raffles legal in California?

In 2015, a California state law passed allowing 50/50 nonprofit fundraising raffles during major league sports home games. Fifty percent of the gross revenue must go to the organization, while the other half can go to the raffle winner.

Can you sell raffle tickets online in California?

California law does not allow nonprofits to hold raffles online or sell raffle tickets via the internet, but you can promote your raffle with:

  • lists, descriptions, photographs, or videos of raffle prizes
  • lists of prize winners
  • raffle rules
  • frequently asked questions and answers
  • raffle entry forms that can be downloaded and mailed or dropped off at the eligible organization

Can schools hold raffles in California?

Yes, schools, colleges, religious organizations, and hospitals can hold raffles without registering with the California Attorney General's office.

Is it legal to raffle a car in California?

No third-party company other than the eligible nonprofit can benefit from raffles in California. Charitable assets, like a car, can be used as raffle prizes if given as voluntary donations.

Can you raffle alcohol in California?

You cannot raffle alcoholic beverages without a liquor license. Obtain a liquor license through the California State Board of Equalization.

What is the legal difference between a raffle and a drawing?

A raffle is a lottery in which people purchase tickets to win prizes. Drawings can't require a fee to win prizes. Other requirements for drawings include:

  • includes an indiscriminate distribution of tickets
  • tickets must be offered on the same terms and conditions as the tickets for which a donation is given
  • the drawing does not require participants to pay to play

Are raffle winnings taxable in California?

California does not have a specific tax on raffle winnings, but they must be included in your state taxes as ordinary income. The IRS also requires nonprofits to withhold 25 percent of the winnings and report this amount on IRS Form W-2G.

Keep reading :

Raffle laws
US raffle rules by state: Legal guidelines for nonprofits and 501(c)3

Check out the 501c3 raffle rules and regulations of your state. Learn how to hold your nonprofit raffle legally.

Read more
Nonprofit guides
How to Do a Raffle: 9 Easy Steps for Fundraisers

Learn how a raffle works and how to organize a successful one. From dealing with raffle tickets and prizes to promoting your raffle, check out our X easy steps for running your event

Read more
Fundraising ideas
77 Creative Raffle Basket Ideas for Fundraisers

Looking for exciting and budget-friendly raffle basket ideas ? Check out our 77 basket gifts ideas for your fundraising event.

Read more