Are 50/50 Raffles Legal in Pennsylvania?

For the past few days I have been daydreaming about competing in a multi-day Adventure Race. Such things can cost almost $1000 per person, so I was thinking about fundraiser ideas in the unlikely event I ever do compete in one.

I was reading about 50/50 raffles online. I read that you need a permit to hold a raffle. I know that hunting clubs in my area have raffles from time to time. I never knew that they had to get a permit to hold them (and being as some of them are little more than beer clubs, I doubt they actually have permits). One site said that you need to be a charity or a public service group to hold a raffle. And another site said that you need to donate %70 of the profit to a charity.

So in short, would a team of 4 people be able to hold a 50/50 raffle? Or would the red tape make it not worth the effort? Is it even an issue for a small group to hold one?


Yes and no.

Here are guidelines from the state on games of chance.

Private clubs, like VFWs, can use 50/50 raffles if they are registered as clubs. So that’s where the hunting clubs are able to run these.

There are exemptions to some of those limits. 50/50 drawings at Flyers games have reached $80K sometimes. But of course all of the proceeds go to a registered charity so that meets those requirements.

With that said, I’ve been to Beef & Beer events for private citizens and they may hold a 50/50 at the end of the night. Under the laws, that technically may be illegal. I’ve just never heard of anyone being prosecuted for it. Of course these are for the death of a parent or a family member with cancer rather than raising money for something trivial. I think if 50/50’s for crowd sourcing admission fees to events started popping up all over, Revenue would take a little closer look.

The legalities aside, how do you picture your team doing this? A 4-person team at $1000/person is $4000 (math!), and you’d need to get $8000 for a 50/50 drawing. Who do you envision soliciting in order to raise that sort of scratch? Hitting a bunch of bars? Going table-to-table at restaurants?

I think you might have better luck just asking people to help out to get to $4000, or finding a local charity one of you supports, and seeing if they would be interested in putting their name in as your sponsor, and you could raise funds that way. You’d probably want to up your goal to something like $10,000, so that the charity would benefit by this more than you would.

The idea wasn’t to raise all the money this way. But anything is better than nothing. And if this actually happens (which I’d bet it won’t), the sponsor idea is good.

I certainly hope they’re legal, as I won $200 in one in PA about 20 years ago.

I can’t speak for PA but I know that all of the charity events I’ve been to in Arizona have been doing illegal 50/50 raffles since forever. I have never been to a motorcycle run that didn’t include a 50/50. I’ve never heard of anyone getting in legal problems over running one or winning one, but most people don’t put more than 5 bucks into the pot, so the payout is never that large.

OP, are you planning an event with a 50/50, or are you going to just hit people up/leave fliers around/send mass emails?

I have no idea. This is still in the “probably won’t happen, but getting ideas in-case it does” stage.

I have a question my Google-fu has failed me on. Do charities like St. Jude have programs where they would sponsor the team. We could hold fundraisers where something like %60 goes to St. Jude’s and %40 goes to the team? The percentage I used is just a guess. Does St. Jude’s do anything like that?