In the United States, raffles, opportunity drawing and lotteries are governed by the individual 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 within the state.
Some states make it a bit more complicated than others, but nonprofit organizations that host ticketing events like raffles often end up hosting more than one raffle per year and some of the biggest campaigns on Zeffy are raffles. AKA raffles raise a lot of money for the nonprofits that host them.
So, yes, the first raffle you host can be a bit time-consuming and confusing, but all the time and energy invested is ultimately worth it. Plus, raffles are a great way to mix up your fundraising campaign portfolio and, as an added bonus, they attract new donors to your nonprofit. And, of course, we’re here to help by walking you through the process of setting up a raffle on Zeffy and we’ve even got a few tips on how to create successful charity raffles and lotteries.
Okay, let’s get started.
The state of Washington defines a nonprofit raffle as:
…a gambling activity, where tickets are sold and prizes are awarded based on chance.1
Who can host a raffle in the state of Washington?
To host a raffle in the state of Washington you need to be either:1
1. A charitable or nonprofit organization that has been operating for at least 12 months before offering a raffle, and whose by-laws or articles of incorporation state you are organized and operating only for one or more of the following purposes:
2. Or your nonprofit is one of the following:
- An agricultural fair.
- A fraternal society.
- A religious society or church.
- A grange.
- Credit unions, cities, counties, towns and executive-branch state employees can also offer raffles.
Those are the only organizations that are allowed to host a raffle in the State of Washington. Which means, individuals and commercial businesses cannot offer raffles, even if the money is given to charity.
Do you need a raffle license to host a raffle in Washington State?
In the state of Washington not every nonprofit requires a raffle license. Your nonprofit can host two unlicensed raffles each year as long as the combined gross revenue from the two raffles does not exceed $5,000. In other words: if your nonprofit is going to host more than two raffles, or your raffles will exceed $5000 in gross revenue, you need to obtain a raffle license. (To ensure you do not exceed the limit, only print $5,000 worth of tickets.)
Plus, just to make things a bit more complicated, you will need to register your nonprofit’s regardless of the number of raffles you’re hosting or gross revenue if:
- The gross revenue from unlicensed members-only raffles will exceed $5,000 in a calendar year. (To ensure you do not exceed the limit, only print $5,000 worth of tickets.)
- You have a bingo or amusement game license and want to offer public raffles.
- Tickets are sold by someone other than a member of your organization. (Unpaid volunteers may sell tickets, but only under the supervision of a member.)
- Firearms are awarded as prizes.
- You are hosting your raffle in partnership with another organization.
- You are awarding or giving non-cash incentives for selling tickets.
- You are selling discounted tickets.
- Winners are chosen using an alternative drawing format, such as a poker run.
If you do need to apply for a raffle license, you’ll need to prove that your nonprofit or charity has made significant progress towards its stated purpose(s) during the 12 consecutive months prior to applying for a license.
Good to know:
Once you get your license, you need to clearly display it when you select the winners. And, remember to check with your local taxing authority for any taxes you may owe. (In that state of Washington, the first $10,000 of net proceeds is exempt from taxation.)
How does a nonprofit register for a licensed raffle in Washington State?
Applying for a gambling license in the state of Washington can take anywhere from 120-150 days to complete. Yes, this is a long time. But, the application process in Washington State is pretty … thorough. Okay, let’s go through the process step-by-step.
You can apply for a raffle license online.
To apply online, visit: SAW (secureaccess.wa.gov) and create or log into your account, add Washington State Gambling Commission as a service, and go to ‘MyAccount’ in SAW to apply for your license.
You can apply via a paper application.
To apply for a Washington State charitable or nonprofit organization gambling license, print, fill out and mail in the following document:
You will need to include a fingerprint with your charitable or nonprofit gambling license application. (Don’t worry, it’s not as scary as it sounds.)
Washington State also requires applicants to submit a fingerprint card. Where the heck do you do that? Good question. You can asked to be fingerprinted at:
The Washington State Gambling Commission’s head office by appointment only.
To schedule an appointment call: 360-486-3441 or email: [email protected]. The offices are located at: 4565 7th Avenue SE, Lacey, WA 98503.
It takes approximately 20 minutes and costs $16. The fee is non-refundable and they do not accept credit or debit cards
You can also go to your local law enforcement agency.
If you choose this option, make sure that the top portion of the card is filled in correctly and submit it by mail with your completed application and the appropriate fee(s).
Washington State Gambling CommissionPO Box 42400Olympia WA 98504-2400
For Fed Ex / UPS overnight packages ONLY:
Washington State Gambling Commission4565 7th Avenue SELacey WA 98503
The last part of your charity or nonprofit’s application process: training requirements.
If you signed a licensing application, are a manager, or are responsible for conducting gambling activities or completing the records—AKA, almost anyone involved in organizing your nonprofit’s raffle—you need to complete some light reading. But, when it comes to raffles, it’s not as complicated as it sounds.
- Read the Criminal Violations PDF.
- Read: 230-06 Rules for all licensees and 230-07 Charitable and Nonprofit Rules and 230-11 Raffles.
- Familiarize yourself with these record-keeping requirements:
- Raffle Record-keeping Packet (GC2-150)
- Helpful “House Rules” for Raffles (GC2-356)
- That’s it!
How will you know if your application for a Washington State charitable or nonprofit gambling license was approved or denied?
If your application is approved, a license will be available for you to print within 24 hours of approval through your SAW MyAccount.
If your application is denied, you will, thankfully, be provided with an explanation. A few of the more common reasons for denial are insufficient information, failure to pay the proper fees, or issues discovered during the criminal or financial background investigations.
You are allowed to supply additional information to prove your nonprofit’s suitability or you can withdraw your application.
Can you sell raffle tickets online in Washington State using Zeffy’s ticketing forms?
Unfortunately, for now, you cannot sell any raffle tickets over the internet in Washington State. We know, we think it’s a bit of an outdated rule too. But, while you can’t use Zeffy’s free event and ticketing software to sell or redeem your raffle tickets in Washington State, you can still use Zeffy to:
- Track your raffle sales by adding offline ticket purchases to your campaign.
- Keep 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 Washington 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.
Good to know:
Unlicensed raffle records must be kept for one year, and licensed raffles records must be kept for three years.
The state of Washington does have a few raffle rules and regulations your nonprofit needs to follow.
What to include on any promotional materials your nonprofit shares:
There aren’t too many must-haves in terms of nonprofit lottery and raffle laws in the state of Washington, however, we recommend including a few details on any promotional materials:
- Your raffle license number (if you have one).
- The prizes to be won.
- The date and location of the draw.
- How/where people can purchase tickets.
Rules and regulations for tickets and ticket sales in the state of Washington:
Washington State has set a few rules and regulations regarding the sale of raffle tickets.
- Maximum price per ticket is $100 ($250 for enhanced raffles).
- You cannot give away free tickets or tickets as gifts.
- All tickets must be sold for the same price.
- Tickets may only be sold by your organization’s members.
- Members cannot be paid to sell tickets, unless they are an employee and have other duties.
- Tickets must be paid for in full by cash, check or credit card. No IOU’s.
- Tickets and/or payments for tickets cannot be mailed.
- Individuals under 18 years of age may sell tickets if:
- Your organization’s primary purpose is to develop youth; and
- At least three members of your organization, age 18 or older, supervise the raffle; and
- A member, 18 years or older, manages the raffle.
What to include on tickets for your nonprofit’s raffle:
- A consecutive number for each ticket.
- The cost of each chance.
- The date/time/location of the draw.
- The name of your nonprofit organization.
- A description of prizes.
- Whether or not the person must be present at the drawing.
Although it’s not written, we do recommend that printed tickets have a detachable coupon or stub, and that both the ticket and its coupon or stub are marked with a unique and matching number.
You can purchase pre-made tickets or get inspired by our sample ticket:
Does it cost money for a nonprofit to register for a lottery in Washington State?
Yes! Fees vary depending on the type of license you’re applying for. But, as an example, when you apply for a Raffle license, there is a $70 initial fee and an additional fee of 3.5830% of your gross receipts to a maximum annual fee of $3,200.
You have to report your gross receipts every quarter even if you had no activity or gross receipts.
To calculate your potential fees, visit the Washington State Gambling Commission’s License Fee Calculator.
After your nonprofit’s raffle…
The Washington State Gambling Commission requires that nonprofits hosting unlicensed raffles must be keep their records for one year, and licensed raffles records must be kept for three years.
You can find all the record-keeping and reporting requirements and forms here.
The Washington State Gambling Commission has sample “house rules” and even supplies a easy to follow raffle record-keeping packet.
Here’s a recap of all the links and documents mentioned in this article:
If you need them: charitable lottery licence laws for other US states.